Referee's whistle - William Atack
The referee's whistle is a normal feature of sports
games, but Cantabrian William Atack was the first sports
referee in the world to use a whistle to stop a game.
As a rugby referee, Atack found the use of the voice
exhausting and found the whistle to be a great success.
It was soon adopted all over the country and then world.
Birmingham local Joseph Hudson invented the first modern
whistle in 1868.
Like so many other pieces of modern technology, the
first use of a ‘whistling device’ can be
traced back to ancient China. When night watchmen needed
to alert towns of an impending Mongolian attack, they
would blow into the top of an acorn to make a shrilling,
warning sound. However, in the mid-to-late 19th century
Joseph Hudson developed a whistle which was a little
less nutty (pun intended). This whistle was developed
primarily for the police, who had previously used hand
rattles to get a criminal’s attention. Hudson’s
brainchild was the Acme Thunderer pea whistle, a small
device which, when blown into, would rattle a small
light ball to make a distinct sound. Police could now
direct traffic with ease.
Prior to the invention of the whistle, referees used
the power of their voice or the theatrical fluttering
of a handkerchief to make players stop and listen to
them. In 1884, Cantabrian genius William Atack used
a whistle to call an end to a rugby game, forever changing
the face of sports and empowering disillusioned referees
all over the world.