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We can expect to live longer than any of our ancestors. Bioengineering is one important aspect of modern medical engineering—e.g. the work of Robert Langer. Public health engineering, contributions to agriculture, providing potable drinking water and disposing of waste have been crucially important in helping us to live healthier and longer lives. We take for granted the flushing toilet, but it is scandalous that in too many parts of the world people and particularly children have little or no regular access to clean water. Joseph Bazalgette arguably did more for our wellbeing than any other person when he ‘cleaned up’ London in the 19th century. The story of how Ben’s heart pacemaker came into being is a perfect illustration of evolving engineering ingenuity to improve individual human wellbeing.