Inventions and inventors
Croatia is considered the home of many inventions which have transformed human existence, several of which are used in everyday life.
1617: the parachute. The polymath, inventor, philosopher and lexicographer Faust Vrančić (1551–1617) was the first person to stretch fabric over a wooden frame to make a parachute, with which he made a jump in Venice in 1617. He described it in detail, along with 56 more inventions, in his work New Machines, and called the parachute Homo volans (Flying Man). He published a Dictionary of the Five Most Reputed European Languages in 1595, the first dictionary printed in Croatia.
1861: the torpedo. The naval officer and inventor Ivan Blaž Lupis (1813–75) built a prototype of an explosive weapon which could be used to attack enemy ships in 1861. After signing a contract with Lupis, a factory in Rijeka developed his invention and was the first in the world to begin mass production of torpedoes which were completely like those used today. The technical solutions of the Rijeka torpedo are used today for peaceful purposes.
1887: ‘supersonic’ photography. Peter Salcher (1848–1928) was a professor of mathematics at the Naval Academy in Rijeka. He was the first person in the world to produce ultrafast photography, used to track the trajectory of a rifle bullet in flight.
1891: dactyloscopy. Ivan Vučetić (1858–1925) was a criminalist who emigrated to Argentina in 1884, where he was employed in the police force. He was one of the founders of dactyloscopy and invented a system for classifying fingerprints which he applied in solving criminal cases.
1897: the airship. The Croatian aviation architect of Hungarian origin David Schwarz (1850–97) made the first steerable airship with a metal frame. Due to his sudden death, the credit for the invention went to Ferdinand Zeppelin, who built his airship on the basis of Schwarz’s project.
1904: the tungsten light bulb. The chemist and metallurgist Franjo Hanaman (1878–1941) developed a process for manufacturing tungsten filaments and their application in electric light bulbs, with Alexander Just, in Vienna.
1906: the ballpoint pen. The Croatian inventor Slavoljub Penkala, of Polish origin (1871–1922), patented many inventions which are still used today. The most famous was his ballpoint pen, which the Penkala factory sold in around 70 countries. He also invented the thermos flask, the rotating toothbrush, and many more devices. He built the first aeroplane in Croatia in 1910 and is considered the father of modern aircraft.
1954: the Puratić power block. Mario Puratić (1904–93) emigrated to the USA in 1929, where he invented a power block to help haul fishing nets out of the sea and on board vessels. His invention has been applied in all the world’s fishing fleets.
1981: the antibiotic azithromycin. A group of scientists from the research institute of the Pliva pharmaceutical company synthesised and patented azithromycin, a new type of wide-spectrum antibiotic which could stay in the body for long periods. Its active ingredient in Croatia is marketed as Zithromax and Sumamed.