28 January 1958: the Lego brick is patented

Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, the son of the Danish founder of Lego, patents the famous eight-stud Lego brick, on this day in 1958.

When you consider how phenomenally successful the simple eight-stud Lego brick has been since it first went on sale in Denmark in 1949, it's amazing to think it took Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, whose father founded Lego, nine years to patent it. But it was only at lunchtime on 28 January 1958, at two minutes to two, that the Dane filed his patent.

The clever bit behind the "automatic binding brick" were the tiny tubes inside. They gave each eight-stud brick, known as a 2x4, better grip when placed on top of each other. That not only made structures stronger, but it also made it easy for a child to pull them apart again. They have been made to the same measurements ever since.

According to Lego (the name comes from the Danish leg godt, meaning "play well"), you would need 40 billion bricks to reach the moon. So it's just as well that in 2012, Lego made 45.7 billion bricks at a rate of 5.2 million per hour. But if just stacking them sounds a bit boring, six eight-stud Lego bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 different ways.

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Lego entered a rough patch from 1998 when the company posted its first ever loss. But since then, it has proved to be the king of turnarounds, thanks to film tie-ins with Star Wars, for example, and computer games. In the first half of 2015, Lego enjoyed sales growth of 18%. Forbes rates the brand as being worth $6.2bn.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

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