European Inventions

“The European Union is the world’s most successful invention for advancing peace.”

John Bruton

Did you know that European companies register each year in Europe more than 260.000 patents for their inventions? If all inventions are not necessary revolutionary, some of them may change radically our industrial technics, our communication channels or -more basically- our way of life. Over the last centuries, Europe brought to humanity many of the greatest breakthroughs. Think about great inventions such as the telephone, the printed press, cinema, the world wide web or the telescope… Or inventions of our daily lives such as eyeglasses, soft contact lenses,  swiss army knives or perfume atomisers… Europe is all about this creativity and the continuous aspiration for innovation and improvement. The list below is a tribute to all European inventors who contributed significantly to the expanding influence of Europe in technics and technology…

Portugal

The Caravel

Most Europeans now associate sea navigation with big and strong boats and we tend to forget how breakthrough the invention of the Caravel in the 15th century was. Let’s consider that until this invention, Europeans were limited to coastal cabotage navigation using ancient Mediterranean cargo vessels of around 50 to 200 tons. These boats were fragile, with only one mast with a fixed square sails that could not overcome the navigational difficulties of Southward oceanic exploration – so not really up for adventures. With the caravel, navigation became easier, with small, highly maneuverable sailing ships which enable Portuguese navigator to explore the earth during the age of discovery.

The coloradd: a sign code for aiding color blind people to recognise colors.

The mariner’s astrolabe: an inclinometer used to determine the latitude of a ship at sea by measuring the sun’s noon altitude.

The pyreliophorus: a device similar to a burning glass, used to melt many different types of materials using solar energy.

Spain

The Space Suit

Americans may claim to be the first country to land a man on the moon, but it was thanks to a Spaniard that Amstrong could actually leave the spacecraft. Emilio Herrera Linares designed and built a full pressure suit called escafandra estratonáutica in 1935. The Russians then used a model of Herrera’s suit when first flying into space. At that time, the suit even included a microphone to be able to speak, an anti-vapour breathing system, thermometers, barometers, and various instruments for measuring and obtaining samples. When tested at Cuatro Vientos Experimental Station, the suit’s pressurized mobility was found to be “thoroughly satisfactory”, according to its inventor.

The autogyro: a type of rotorcraft that uses an unpowered rotor in free autorotation to develop lift.

The electronic book: a book publication made available in digital form.

The metronome: a device that produces an audible click or other sound at a regular interval that can be set by the user.

The mop: a bundle of coarse strings attached to a pole or stick to soak up liquid.

France

The Cinematograph

Imagine a world without cinema! You might not be aware of this, but we owe the invention to the French! The Lumière brothers are generally considered as the inventors of cinema. But at the end of the 19th century, other genius inventors had found processes capable of projecting moving images or photographs. In France the Praxinoscope attracted a large audience at the Grévin Theatre, while in the US, Thomas Edison tried to launch his Kinetoscope, or peep-hole viewer. However none of these machines would encounter the success of the Cinematograph presented by the brothers on the 28th of December 1895 at the Grand Café in Paris.

The aqua-lung: an open-circuit, self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.

The Aspirin: a medication used to reduce pain, fever, or inflammation.

The braille: a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired.

The etch a sketch: a mechanical drawing toy.

The hair dryer: an electromechanical device that blows ambient or hot air over damp hair to speed the evaporation of water to dry the hair.

The hot air balloon: a lighter-than-air aircraft consisting of a bag, called an envelope, which contains heated air.

The pencil sharpener: a tool for sharpening a pencil’s writing point by shaving away its worn surface.

The stethoscope: an acoustic medical device for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of an animal or human body.

The telegraph: a long-distance transmission of textual messages where the sender uses symbolic codes, known to the recipient, rather than a physical exchange of an object bearing the message.

Iceland

The Power Transformer

Iceland has been pioneering in transmission grid and power transformers. Chester Hjortur Thordarson (1867 – 1945) was an Icelandic-American inventor who was instrumental in the development of the modern energy transmission grid with his work on transformers. Thordarson’s first opportunity of distinction came through his association with universities. An order came from Purdue University that requested building a half-million volt transformer to be exhibited at the 1904 St. Louis Fair — it was slated to be used for experimental purposes at Purdue thereafter. Eleven years later, Thordarson built a million volt transformer, and received a gold medal for the accomplishment.

Ireland

The Submarine

Irish people have changed the world: the first submarine to be used by the US navy was invented by an Irishman, John Philip Holland. In 1897 he launched a submarine that was powerful enough to travel for four hours beneath the surface of the water. It was the first of its kind and superior to similar vessels being developed in France. It was powered by both electric motors and gasoline engines. The US Navy was suitably impressed and purchased the submarine in 1900 and it became known as USS Holland. The navy then ordered six more to be built. John Philip Holland later sold his designs to other navies including the British and Japanese.

The meldometer: a device used to measure the melting points of mineral.

The portable defibrillator: a treatment for life-threatening cardiac dysrhythmias.

The steam turbine: a device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam and uses it to do mechanical work on a rotating output shaft.

United Kingdom

The Telephone

If the invention of the telephone was the culmination of work done by many individuals, the history of which involves a collection of claims and counterclaims, we commonly credit to the Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell the invention of the first practical telephone. The classic story of his crying out “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” is now well-known in the history of the telephone. Bell was the first to obtain a patent, in 1876, for an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically”, after experimenting with many primitive sound transmitters and receivers. Bell was also an astute and articulate businessman with influential and wealthy friends.

The fire extinguisher: an active fire protection device used to extinguish or control small fires.

The glider: a fixed-wing aircraft that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against its lifting surfaces.

The lawn mower: a machine utilizing one or more revolving blades to cut a grass surface to an even height.

The light bulb: a device that produces visible light from electric current.

The pneumatic tire: a ring-shaped component that surrounds a wheel’s rim to transfer a vehicle’s load from the axle through the wheel to the ground.

The television: a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images.

The train: a form of rail transport consisting of a series of connected vehicles that generally run along a railroad track to transport cargo or passengers.

Norway

The Aerosol Can

Even basic inventions have an interesting story. The concept of an aerosol originated as early as 1790, when self-pressurized carbonated beverages were introduced in France. But it is not until 1927 that the Norwegian engineer Erik Rotheim patented the first aerosol can and valve that could hold and dispense products and propellant systems. This was the forerunner of the modern aerosol can and valve. Commercial exploitation of the patent was not significant until it was introduced in the United States in the 1940s. In 1998, the Norwegian post office issued a stamp celebrating the Norwegian invention of the spray can to pay tribute to its inventor.

The cheese knife: a type of kitchen knife specialized for the cutting of cheese.

The kneeling chair: a type of chair for sitting in a position with the thighs dropped to an angle of about 60° to 70° from vertical.

Sweden

The Celsius Thermometer

Several pioneers designed a version of the thermoscope at the same time. In 1593, Galileo Galilei invented a rudimentary water thermoscope, which for the first time, allowed temperature variations to be measured. But it is not until 1742 that the Celsius scale was invented by Swedish Astronomer Anders Celsius. The Celsius temperature scale is also referred to as the “centigrade” scale. Centigrade means “consisting of or divided into 100 degrees”. The Celsius scale has 100 degrees between the freezing point (0°C) and boiling point (100°C) of pure water at sea level air pressure. And to complete this great story, the term “Celsius” was adopted in 1948 by an international conference.

The adjustable spanner: an open-end wrench with a movable jaw, allowing it to be used with different sizes of fastener head rather than just one fastener size.

The bluetooth: a wireless technology standard used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances.

The dynamite: an explosive made of nitroglycerin, sorbents (such as powdered shells or clay) and stabilizers.

The gymnastics wall bars: a multi functional device, made of lamellar beech timber.

The plastic shopping bagsa type of plastic bag used as shopping bags and made from various kinds of plastic.

The safety matches: a match with a specially designed striking surface.

The Tetra Brik: a cubic shape carton package.

The three-point seat belt: a Y-shaped arrangement, similar to the separate lap and sash belts, but unitized.

Finland

The Heart Rate Monitor

The invention of heart rate monitor is to be found in a cold nordic country with a strong ski culture. The first wireless heart rate monitor was invented in 1977 as a training aid for the Finnish National Cross Country Ski team and as ‘intensity training’ became a popular concept in athletic circles in the mid-80s, retail sales of wireless personal heart monitors started from 1983. Strapless heart rate monitors now allow the user to just touch two sensors on a wristwatch display for a few seconds to view their heart rate. These are popular for their comfort and ease of use though they don’t give as much detail as monitors which use a chest strap.

The ice skates: metal blades attached underfoot and used to propel the bearer across a sheet of ice while ice skating.

The rescue toboggan: a carrier for transporting a person or goods on snowy or icy surfaces.

The safety reflector: a retroreflector intended for pedestrians, runners, motorized and non-motorized vehicles.

The sauna: a small room or building designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions.

The Savonius wind turbine: a type of vertical-axis wind turbine, used for converting the force of the wind into torque on a rotating shaft.

Denmark

The Loudspeaker

On Christmas Eve 1915, an expectant crowd of 75,000 people stood in front of the City Hall in San Francisco to watch the Danish inventor Peter L. Jensen demonstrate the world’s first loudspeaker. Cheers erupted as the singing voice of a well-known opera diva of the day filled the airwaves, and resonated over a distance of 1½ kilometres. In the USA, Peter L. Jensen was regarded as the Danish Edison, and one of the most expensive loudspeaker brands is still called Jensen. Peter L. Jensen later said that he came to regret his invention when he heard how Hitler and other dictators misused loudspeakers as a propaganda weapon.

The dry-cell battery: a battery with a paste electrolyte, with only enough moisture to allow current to flow.

The Telegraphone: a magnetic wire recorder.

Netherlands

The Telescope

Who invented the telescope? The answer is still a mystery. It is highly probable that as  lens-grinding techniques improved in the late 1500s, someone held up two lenses and discovered what they could do. However, it is commonly acknowledged that the first person to apply for a patent for a telescope was a Dutch eyeglass maker named Hans Lippershey. In 1608, he tried to lay claim on a device with three-times magnification. His telescope had a concave eyepiece aligned with a convex objective lens. One story goes that he got the idea after observing children in his shop holding up two lenses that made a distant weather vane appear close.

The compact cassette: an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback.

The fire hose: a high-pressure hose that carries water or other fire retardant to a fire to extinguish it.

The Mercator projection: a cylindrical map projection.

The red light camera: a type of traffic enforcement camera that captures image of vehicle that has entered an intersection in spite of the traffic signal indicating red.

The Schilt photometer: a device that measures the light output of stars and, indirectly, their distances.

The yacht: a watercraft used for pleasure or sports.

Belgium

The World Wide Web

Can you believe it? The World Wide Web is half Belgian! The name Robert Cailliau may not ring a bell to the general public, but his invention is the reason why you are reading this: Dr. Cailliau together with his British colleague Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, making the internet accessible so it could grow from an academic tool to a mass communication medium. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed a hypertext system for access to the many forms of documentation at and related to CERN. During this time, Cailliau co-authored a proposal for funding for the project for which he even designed the first WWW logo…

The Big Bang theory: a cosmological model for the observable universe from the earliest known periods through its subsequent large-scale evolution.

The body mass indexa value derived from the mass (weight) and height of a person.

The roller skates: shoes, or bindings that fit onto shoes, that are worn to enable the wearer to roll along on wheels.

The saxophone: a woodwind instrument usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet.

Luxembourg

The Internal Combustion Engine

Ok, Étienne Lenoir was born in Mussy-la-Ville, which is now part of Belgium, but the city was at that time in Luxembourg… Ok, Étienne Lenoir was not the first one to patent the invention of the internal Combustion Engine…  But he was the first one to commercialize it in sufficient quantities to be considered a success! By 1859, Lenoir’s experimentation without electricity led him to develop the first single-cylinder two-stroke engine which burnt a mixture of coal gas and air. Most applications of the Lenoir engine were as a stationary power plant powering printing presses, water pumps, and machine tools. They “proved to be rough and noisy after prolonged use”, however.

Germany

The Printed Press

Most of us tend to take printed materials for granted, but imagine life today if the printing press had never been invented. Around the late 1430s, a German man named Johann Gutenberg was quite desperate to find a way to make money. Gutenberg already had previous experience working at a mint, and he realized that if he could use cut blocks within a machine, he could make the printing process a lot faster. However, instead of using wood blocks, he used metal instead. The German goldsmith’s contribution to the technology became then revolutionary — enabling the mass production of books and the rapid dissemination of knowledge throughout Europe

The accordion: a family of box-shaped musical instruments of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone type.

The automobile: a wheeled motor vehicle used for transportation.

The bicycle: a human-powered, pedal-driven, single-track vehicle.

The Bunsen burner: a common piece of laboratory equipment that produces a single open gas flame, which is used for heating, sterilization, and combustion.

The coffee filter: a coffee-brewing utensil, usually made of disposable paper.

The contact lens: a thin lens placed directly on the surface of the eye.

The diesel enginean internal combustion engine.

The gummy bear: a popular gelatin-based candy.

The X-rays: a form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation

Austria

The Kaplan Turbine

The Kaplan turbine is a propeller-type water turbine which has adjustable blades. It was developed in 1913 by the Austrian professor Viktor Kaplan, who combined automatically adjusted propeller blades with automatically adjusted wicket gates to achieve efficiency over a wide range of flow and water level. Kaplan turbines are widely used for electrical power production. They cover the lowest head hydro sites and are especially suited for high flow conditions. They have recently found a new home in offshore wave energy generation. Inexpensive micro Kaplan turbines are also manufactured for individual power production with as little as two feet of head.

The drum memory: a magnetic data storage device.

The psychoanalysis: a set of theories and therapeutic techniques related to the study of the unconscious mind.

The slow motionan effect in film-making whereby time appears to be slowed down.

Switzerland

The Swiss Army knife

Of course! We couldn’t avoid mentioning the Swiss Army Knife in an article devoted to European inventions! During the late 1880s, the Swiss Army decided to purchase a new folding pocket knife for their soldiers. This knife was to be suitable for use by the army in opening canned food and disassembling the Swiss service rifle, the Schmidt-Rubin M1889, which required a screwdriver for assembly. The first knife had a blade, reamer, can-opener, screwdriver, and grips made out of dark oak wood. At that time no Swiss company had the necessary production capacity, so the initial order for 15,000 knives was placed with a German knife manufacturer.

The aluminium foil: aluminium prepared in thin metal leaves.

The bobsleigha team winter sport that involves making timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sleigh.

The cellophane: a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose.

The full metal jacket: a small-arms projectile consisting of a soft core encased in a shell of harder metal.

The Helvetica font: a widely used sans-serif typeface.

The Rex vegetable peeler: a curving, ergonomic vegetable peeler with a super sharp, hardened steel blade.

The stick blender: a kitchen blade grinder used to blend ingredients or purée food in the container in which they are being prepared.

The turbocharger: a turbine-driven, forced induction device that increases an internal combustion engine’s efficiency and power output by forcing extra compressed air into the combustion chamber.

The velcro: a hook-and-loop fastener.

Italy

The Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses with convex lenses for correcting farsighted vision were probably invented in Italy around the year 1268-1284, perhaps by Salvino D’Armate or by Alessandro Spina. Early glasses were also made in China around the same time. The earliest glasses did not have arms: they perched on the bridge of the nose. Eyeglasses with concave lenses for myopia were not invented until the 1400s. According to a sermon delivered on February 23, 1306, by the Dominican friar Giordano da Pisa: “It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision…” Interesting to know: glasses with arms were invented only in the 1600s

The barometer: a scientific instrument that is used to measure air pressure.

The confetti: small pieces or streamers of paper which are usually thrown at celebrations.

The Espresso machine: a machine brewing coffee.

The jacuzzi: a whirlpool bathtub.

The mandolin: a stringed musical instrument in the lute family.

The nitroglycerin: a dense, colorless, oily, explosive liquid.

The piano: an acoustic, stringed musical instrument.

The pizza: a usually round, flattened base of leavened wheat-based dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and often various other ingredients.

The radio: a technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves.

The thermometer: a device that measures temperature.

The typewriter: a mechanical or electromechanical machine for writing characters.

The Vespa: an Italian brand of scooter.

The violin: a wooden string instrument.

Czechia

The Soft Contact Lenses

Italians may have invented eyeglasses, we nevertheless owe the invention of soft contact lenses to a Czech inventor! The first practicable soft contact lens was produced in 1961 by Otto Wichterle on a device he set up on his kitchen table consisting of a gramophone motor and bits from a toy construction set. He tried the lenses in his own eyes and although they were the wrong power they were comfortable. The lens was spun from a plastic that retained water and stayed moist on the eyeball. In essence this is the way soft lenses are still produced for the 100m people around the world who prefer them to spectacles. Otto Wichterle never became rich. The state sold his discoveries for whatever it could get…

The sugar cube: sugar in cubic shape.

The Polarograph: a chemical analysis instrument used to record automatic voltage-intensity curves.

Slovakia

The Parachute

Štefan Banič from Slovakia built the first parachutes to see use beyond the experimental stage, patenting it in 1914. Having witnessed a plane crash in 1912, Banič constructed a prototype of a parachute in 1913 and tested it in Washington, D.C. before U.S. Patent Office and military representatives, jumping first from a 15-storey building and subsequently from an airplane in 1914. Banič donated his patent, No. 1,108,484 to the U.S. Army. He received little fame or fortune for his invention. But his parachute saved the lives of many American aviators during World War I. In gratitude he was made an honorary member of the Army Air Corps (now Air Force) and the Society.

The hydraulic pump: a mechanical source of power that converts mechanical power into hydraulic energy.

Poland

The Bulletproof Vest

Did you know that the bullet proof vest was actually invented by a Polish priest in 1893? When he wasn’t baptizing, burying or marrying people, Kazimierz Żegleń indulged in his secret passion for bullet resistant clothing. Having experimented with jackets stuffed with hair, moss, and week-old doughnuts Żegleń finally hit on the idea of using that notoriously tough and resistant material silk. Żegleń proved it worked by bravely volunteering a friend to be shot eight times in the chest. In June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was wearing a silk bulletproof vest when he was attacked by a gun-wielding assassin. But he was shot in the neck…

The aeroscope: a type of compressed air camera for making films.

The cotton buds: small wads of cotton wrapped around one or both ends of a short rod made of wood, rolled paper or plastic.

The ebulliometer: a device to measure the boiling point of liquids by measuring the temperature of the vapor-liquid equilibrium.

The Esperanto: a constructed international auxiliary language.

The Polish mine detector: a metal detector for landmines developed during World War II.

The kerosene lamp: a type of lighting device that uses kerosene as a fuel.

The Vodka: a clear distilled alcoholic beverage.

Estonia

Skype

This is probably the most modern and well known Estonian invention in the World today. Skype, a system of peer-to-peer telephone was invented and written by Estonian software developers Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu. The program is widely popular because it allows users to communicate by video using a webcam or by voice chat using a microphone. With its name derived from the words “sky” and “peer” and originally named Skyper, the inventors had to register domain names Skype.com and Skype.net as Skyper.com was not available. The very first version of Skype was released in August 2003, but it is now owned by Microsoft.

Kazaa: a former peer-to-peer file sharing application.

TransferWise: an online money transfer service.

Latvia

The Miniature Camera

In 1937, the State Electrotechnical Plant (VEF) launched production of the first miniature camera in the world, VEF Minox, produced in 1936 by the Latvian Walter Zapp. A camera smaller than a cigar and weighing less than a cigarette lighter. And featuring an excellent lens.  After World War II, the camera was redesigned and production resumed in Germany in 1948. Originally envisioned as a luxury item, the original Minox camera gained wide notoriety as a spy camera and extremely popular during the Cold War. It was used by both sides of the Iron Curtain. The innovative design and technical solutions of Zapp’s camera were patented around the world.

The Aerowagon: an experimental high-speed railcar fitted with an aircraft engine and propeller traction.

Lithuania

The Vilnius Photometric System

We owe to Lithuania the invention of a modern system to classify stars from ground based observations. The Vilnius photometric system is a medium-band seven-colour photometric system, created in 1963 by Vytautas Straižys and his coworkers to optimize the classification of stars and ensure the possibility to measure faint stars. The Vilnius Standard Photometric System is said to have several advantages over other photometric systems; reduction procedures free of systematic errors, a homogeneous set of standard stars, accurate dereddening, spectral classification and calibration of physical parameters for normal stars, and a good detection rate of abnormal stars…

The Euthanasia Coaster: a hypothetical steel roller coaster designed to kill its passengers.

Belarus

The Feathering Spectrograph

The astrophysicist and astrobiologist Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov originated the idea of the “feathering spectrograph.” Most glass lenses show the effect of chromatic aberration, in which rays at different wavelengths from a star are not focussed at a single point on a photographic image but instead form a round halo. Tikhov installed a special ring-shaped diaphragm in front of the astrograph objective to enable the brightness distribution along the radius of such haloes to be studied and so provide data on the color distribution of stars of different spectral classes. These studies emerged and formed a new branch of astronomy called GA Tikhov Astrobotany.

The Minsk computers: a family of mainframe computers developed and produced in the Byelorussian SSR.

Ukraine

The Aerosani (aэросани)

Aerosani are a type of propeller-driven snowmobile, running on skis, used for communications, mail deliveries, medical aid, emergency recovery and border patrolling. In 1909–10 young Ukrainian Igor Sikorsky tested the first self designed aerosani. They were very light plywood vehicles on skis, propelled by old airplane engines and propellers. Born in Kiev, Russia (now Ukraine), Sikorsky was interested in aircraft as a young boy. At 11, he dreamed of a palatial flying machine luxuriously decorated, a dream that he fulfilled years later when he designed a flying passenger boat, the S-40, built for Pan American World Airways as it pioneered international air travel.

The modern postal codes: a series of letters or digits or both, sometimes including spaces or punctuation, included in a postal address for the purpose of sorting mail.

The address programming language: one of the world’s first high-level programming languages.

Romania

Cybernetics

Dr Stefan Odobleja is known as the father of cybernetics. Practicaly he is the inventor of the modern cybernetics as he published in 1929 “Method of transonic chest” which states the first law of reversibility. Despite poverty stricken and, in some ways, a difficult life, he managed to remain productive. His completed works in cybernetics run to over 50,000 pages. As a reminder, cybernetics is the theory of control by retroaction. The term has spread especially related to digital systems, but the field is much wider: it deals with how a system (digital, mechanical, biological) processes information and reacts to these, also is interested in how cyber-based systems allow changes

The cervical cancer screening test: process of detecting abnormal tissue or cells in the cervix before cervical cancer develops.

The ejection seat: a system designed to rescue the pilot or other crew of an aircraft in an emergency.

The fountain pen: a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor, the dip pen, contains an internal reservoir of liquid ink.

The reaction engine: an engine which provides propulsion by expelling reaction mass.

Hungary

The Thermographic Camera

In 1929, Hungarian physicist Kálmán Tihanyi invented the infrared-sensitive (night vision) electronic television camera for anti-aircraft defense in Britain. The first conventional thermographic cameras began with the development of the first infrared line scanner. This was created by the US military and Texas Instruments in 1947 and took one hour to produce a single image. While several approaches were investigated to improve the speed and accuracy of the technology, one of the most crucial factors that needed to be considered dealt with scanning an image, which the AGA company was able to commercialize using a cooled photoconductor.

The ballpoint pen: a pen that dispenses ink over a metal ball at its point.

The commutator: a rotary electrical switch in certain types of electric motors and electrical generators.

The hologram: a physical structure that uses light diffraction to make an image; the image can appear to be three-dimensional.

The impulse generator: an electrical apparatus which produces very short high-voltage or high-current surges.

The Rubik’s Cube: a 3-D combination puzzle.

The transistor: a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power.

Slovenia

The Perfume Atomiser

Peter Florjančič has an interesting story. In 1943, during Nazi German occupation of Slovenia, he decided to join a friend to Kitzbuehel, Austria, knowing he would be called up to serve in the German Army on the Eastern Front. He became there a prolific inventor: his successful inventions have included the perfume atomiser, plastic injection molding machines and the plastic photographic slide frame. In his biography, he wrote: “I’ve had five citizenships, 43 cars and the longest passport. The profession of inventor forced me to spend 25 years in hotels, four years in cars, three years on trains, a year and a half on airplanes and a year on board of ships”

The plastic injection molding machine: a machine for manufacturing plastic products by the injection molding process.

The plastic photographic slide frame: a plastic frame around a photographic film.

Croatia – Serbia

The Alternating Current

It’s hard to choose just one of Nikola Tesla’s hundreds of inventions, but the Serbian-born inventor in today´s Croatia is perhaps most famous for developing alternating current, the system that powers our homes and businesses even today. It also sparked the feud between Tesla and Thomas Edison, whose direct current system was more dangerous, though Edison claimed otherwise. To make his case, Edison occasionally electrocuted animals to “prove” the dangers of AC. In response, Tesla sent alternating current through his own body at low voltages, using it as an electrical conductor to light bulbs and proving the system’s safety.

The hair clipper: a specialised implement used to cut human head hair.

The Pay-by-phone parking: a system allowing any driver parking in a fare required space the option to divert the expense to a credit card or to a mobile network operator via the use of a mobile phone.

The SOS response: a global response to DNA damage in which the cell cycle is arrested and DNA repair and mutagenesis is induced.

The tie: a long piece of cloth, worn, usually by men, for decorative purposes around the neck, resting under the shirt collar and knotted at the throat.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Safety Gas Pressure Regulator

The story of the invention of safety gas pressure regulator, as well as of its author Josip Nosse, originates from the destroying war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992-95! Lacking of a reliable gas supply, the people in Sarajevo used any kind of tubes to connect to the city gas net. That practice was so dangerous that Sarajevogas issued a booklet in 30.000 copies reading „Be careful with the gas!“. Constructor Josip Nosse thus had the idea to design and build a device enabling security of high and low gas pressure in the home gas installations. The invention saved then many lives and contributed to the safety of the city. 

Albania

The Poplar Airplane

Look at this my son, this is the best book that I’ve ever read”, said Hasan Masurica to his son Fehmi. The book was about Leonardo da Vinci, written in Arabic. The idea of constructing an airplane which would fly had come exactly from reading about various inventions of Da Vinci. Hasan Masurica expressed his will of building such a device to members of the community, but always complained he lacked the materials and elements of realizing this idea. One day, he bought poplar and fabric which he softened with wax in order for air not to pass through. One windy summer day in 1899, Hasan called his neighbors and his admirers to come and see him lift the airplane…

Bulgaria

The Automatic Gearbox

It is a major invention for the automotive sector, and it comes from Bulgaria: the automatic gearbox developed by Rumen Antonov. The invention, which cuts fuel costs and is applicable to small cars, has been patented and sold to major auto companies, including Honda, Renault, Peugeot, Rover, Daimler Chrysler and Suzuki. The Automatic gearbox is a type of transmission for motor vehicles that automatically changes the gear ratios that the vehicle can achieve, thereby freeing the driver from having to make the change manually. Like other transmission systems, it adapts to the internal combustion engine, ideally at a relatively high speed.

The Bulgarian Yogurt: a mildly sour-tasting yogurt.

The Cyrillic alphabet: one of the most-used writing systems in the world.

Greece

The Alarm Clock

One of the most commonly used gadget these days, the alarm clock, had its origin in ancient Greece. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato said to possess a large water clock with an unspecified alarm signal similar to the sound of a water organ; he used it at night, possibly for signaling the beginning of his lectures at dawn. The Hellenistic inventor Ctesibius (285–222 BC) fitted his clepsydras with dial and pointer for indicating the time, and added elaborate “alarm systems, which could be made to drop pebbles on a gong, or blow trumpets at pre-set times”. With the proper sophistication of technology, the alarm clock went afterwards through a number of changes…

The ancient Olympic Games: a festival, or celebration, of and for Zeus; events such as a footrace, a javelin contest, and wrestling matches.

The arch bridge: a bridge with abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch.

The automatic door: a door that opens automatically, usually on sensing the approach of a person.

The caliper: a device used to measure the distance between two opposite sides of an object.

The catapult: a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder or other propellants.

The clock tower: a specific type of building which houses a turret clock and has one or more clock faces on the upper exterior walls.

The crane: a type of machine that can be used both to lift and lower materials and to move them horizontally.

Democracy: a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation.

The flamethrower: a mechanical incendiary device designed to project a long, controllable stream of fire.

Geography: a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and planets.

The odometer: an instrument used for measuring the distance traveled by a vehicle, such as a bicycle or car.

Theatre: a collaborative form of performing art that uses live performers, typically actors or actresses.

The Water Mill: a mill that uses hydropower.

Turkey

The Manned Rocket Flight

Evliya Çelebi purported that in 1633, Lagari Hasan Çelebi was launched in a 7-winged rocket using 140 lbs of gunpowder from Sarayburnu, the point below Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. The flight was said to be undertaken at the time of the birth of sultan Murad IV’s daughter. As Evliya Celebi wrote, Lagari proclaimed before launch “O my sultan! Be blessed, I am going to talk to Jesus!”; after ascending in the rocket, he landed in the sea, swimming ashore and reporting “O my sultan! Jesus sends his regards to you!”; he was rewarded by the Sultan with silver and the rank of sipahi in the Ottoman army

The roasting jack: a machine which rotates meat roasting on a spit.

The Turkish coffee: a coffee prepared using very finely ground coffee beans, unfiltered.

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