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  • Writer's pictureServus Zagreb

Croatia – a small country with some great minds & inventions

How many times have you traveled to a country and trying to find out what makes this country especially famous in the world? Or how many times have you associated some famous artist, athlete, or scientist with the country of his/her origin? Probably countless times without thinking too much about it. Croatia, although a small country, is most recognizable for its beautiful nature and numerous sporting successes. Still, it has more trump cards to offer by which it is or by which it could be even more recognizable. Therefore, bellow is a list of inventions and objects that you encounter on a daily basis, but which you most likely not associate with Croatia as the country of origin. OK, so let's see what it's all about!

1. (Neck)tie

The necktie that spread from Europe traces back to Croatian mercenaries serving in France during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). These mercenaries from the Croatian Military Frontier, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians. Because of the difference between the Croatian word for Croats, Hrvati, and the French word, Croates, the garment gained the name cravat (cravate in French). The boy-king Louis XIV began wearing a lace cravat around 1646 when he was seven and set the fashion for French nobility. This new article of clothing started a fashion craze in Europe; both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. From its introduction by the French king, men wore lace cravats, or jabots, that took a large amount of time and effort to arrange. These cravats were often tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.

International Necktie Day is celebrated on October 18 in Croatia and in various cities around the world, including in Dublin, Tübingen, Como, Tokyo, Sydney, and other towns.

After all, how popular tie was from its beginning as fashion item proofs an anecdote of English king Charles II who heard about this new fashion item, proclaimed, ''Get me a tie or I shall die!''.

2. Torpedo

A prototype self-propelled torpedo was created by a commission placed by Giovanni Luppis, an Austro-Hungarian naval officer from Rijeka (modern-day Croatia), at the time a port city of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and Robert Whitehead, an English engineer who was the manager of a town factory. In 1864, Luppis presented Whitehead with the plans of the salvacoste (cost saver), a floating weapon driven by ropes from the land that had been dismissed by the naval authorities due to the impractical steering and propulsion mechanisms. After the Austrian government decided to invest in the invention, Whitehead started the first torpedo factory in Rijeka.

3. Mechanical pencil

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala is an inventor who invented many inventions such as a hot water bottle or Termofor, a type of bluing detergent, a rail-car brake, an anode battery but his best-known invention is a mechanical pencil. He invented the automatic mechanical pencil and it was patented in over 70 countries around the world. Soon after his invention, he opened the biggest pen and pencil company in the world, based in Zagreb – the company is called TOZ Penkala.

4. MP3 player

Thanks to the Croatian programmer and student of Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing at the University of Zagreb, Tomislav Uzelac, who made an AMP MP3 Playback Engine in 1997, our enjoyment in the music is greater. His invention is considered the first MP3 player in the world!

5. Airship (Zepellin)

The first aluminum airship in the shape of a shell, filled with hydrogen was built by David Schwarz, in St. Petersburg in 1893. The first boat was was 48 meters long with 3.560 kilograms weight, but it has some gas-filling problems. Later, he worked on the improvement of his first airship, in Berlin, alongside Carle Berg. Due to delays and not satisfactory results, the test was not made until November 1897, roughly ten months after Schwarz’s death. Moreover, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin purchased Schwarz’s patent from his widow in 1898, and he improved the airship and began the era of a new way of transporting people. That’s why today when someone mentions an airship, we relate it to its manufacturer rather than to his inventor.


6. Maglite flashlights

Maglite is a brand of flashlight manufactured in the United States by Mag Instrument, Inc. located in Ontario, California, and founded by Croatian inventor Ante (Anthony) Maglica. Speaking little English, he obtained work as a machinist. While working there, he learned that one of his bosses operated a side business machining hydraulic parts. Tony learned of a metal lathe for sale for $1000 and convinced the seller to accept a $125 down payment, most of his money at the time, with the remainder being paid off with monthly payments. That business grew into his own machine shop which he incorporated in 1974 called Mag Instrument Inc.


7. Parachute

Here we have another great Croatian inventor, Faust Vrančić, who invented many interesting inventions such as the first wind and mill turbines, who drew proposals that predated the actual construction of modern suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges, as well who left his mark in literature and philosophy. But his best-known invention is a parachute. It is conceived as a rectangular wooden frame construction with stretched fabric from where hangs the paratrooper. It is assumed to be tested by a jump from the tower in Venice at the end of the 16th century! This event was documented some 30 years later in a book Mathematical Magick or, the Wonders that may be Performed by Mechanical Geometry (London, 1648) written by John Wilkins, the secretary of the Royal Society in London.

8. Dactyloscopy

Ivan (Juan) Vučetić, a father of dactyloscopy, developed his own method of fingerprint classification! Fingerprints are made of series of ridges and furrows on the surface of a finger; the loops, whorls, and arches formed by those ridges and furrows generally follow a number of distinct patterns. Fingerprints also contain individual characteristics called “minutiae,” such as the number of ridges and their groupings, that are not perceptible to the naked eye. His methods weren’t immediately accepted, however, today this method is widespread throughout the world and it is indispensable in criminology.

9. Speedometer

Next time you are in your car and checking if you are traveling over the speed limit, just remember it was a Croatian who played a part in its invention. The electric speedometer was invented by the Croatian Josip Belušić in 1888 and was originally called a velocimeter. Working on an electric current, his device measured the speed of the vehicle, as well as the distance the vehicle had traveled. Belušić’s original patent is kept at the State Archives in Vienna. A copy of his speedometer can be found at the Police Museum in Zagreb.

10. Sumamed

Discovered by Pliva's research team in Zagreb in 1980, with Azithromycin or Sumamed Croatia became one of only nine countries in the world with an original antibiotic. It's one of the world's best-selling antibiotics, used to treat or prevent certain bacterial infections, most often those causing middle ear infections, strep throat, pneumonia, typhoid, bronchitis, and sinusitis.

11. Water canon

Intelligiant or water cannon and it's invented by Ivan (John) Mišković. The invention of the intelligiant significantly influenced the development of hydraulic excavation of gold. It is used worldwide in firefighting, large vehicle washing, riot control, and mining.

Extra: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, a Croat-Serbo-American inventor, was born in a small village Smiljan, Croatia. This inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. Tesla obtained around 300 patents worldwide for his inventions. Some of Tesla's patents are not accounted for, and various sources have discovered some that have lain hidden in patent archives. There is a minimum of 278 known patents issued to Tesla in 26 countries. Many of Tesla's patents were in the United States, Britain, and Canada, but many other patents were approved in countries around the globe. Many inventions developed by Tesla were not put into patent protection. Certainly one of the inventors who deserves to have its own separate topic in some future post.

We hope that after this article, every time you notice any of the items from the list, you will think about Croatia as a country of origin of these items.

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