• Germany's news in English
The Local List
10 genius ways German inventors improved our lives
Photo: DPA

10 genius ways German inventors improved our lives

The Local · 16 Jan 2016, 11:00

Published: 16 Jan 2016 11:00 GMT+01:00

1. MP3s

With MP3 you can enjoy Jagger in near real-life quality sound. Photo: DPA

A German inventor by the name of Karlheinz Brandenburg is responsible for an invention that has revolutionized how we listen to music. Thanks to Brandenburg’s doctoral work at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg we never need to bother with pesky CDs again - and we have an almost limitless amount of music right at our fingertips.

2. Ring binders, ink erasers, hole punches, glue sticks

Photo: DPA

Confirming the stereotype that Germans like to keep orderly records of everything, some of the most useful office supplies have been invented by Germans. Friedrich Soennecken invented ring binders and hole punches in the late 19th Century.

Another German, Louis Leitz, then improved on his compatriot’s invention by putting a finger hole in the binder to make it easier to remove from a crowded shelf.

3. Aspirin

Photo: DPA

Aspirin - the world's favourite painkiller - is a German creation. The little white pill made from willow bark was developed by Felix Hoffmann in August 1897 for pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and although a US company claimed the patent for the drug after the First World War, 12,000 of the 50,000 tonnes of acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) produced each year are still made by Bayer.

4. Carabiners

Photo: DPA

We all know how much Germans love the mountains, so it’s no surprise that the most important piece of gear in any climber’s equipment was invented by Otto Herzog, a Bavarian climber and inventor.

The carabiner has all sorts of uses, but this metal loop with a spring-loaded gate is most commonly used to allow a climber to safely scale or descend a steep cliff with the aid of a rope.

5. Lithography

An Edvard Munch lithograph. Photo: DPA

Invented by Alois Senefelder in Bavaria in 1796, lithography has given the world some of its finest art. Most famously, Edvard Munch used the printing technique, but Picasso, Monet, Manet and just about any 20th century artist you care to name has used the technique.

Also just about any poster or newspaper printed today uses lithography, meaning there is barely an hour that goes by when you don’t see Senefelder’s influence on the world.

6. Accordions

Photo: DPA

When asked to think of Germany, one often thinks of a portly man wearing lederhosen, a green hat and a chirpy grin, playing folk tunes on a huge accordion. In fact, early versions of the instrument date back to third century BC China. But the first "true" accordion was indeed invented by a German, Christian Friedrich Buschmann, who in 1822 attached bellows to a portable keyboard with vibrating reeds, naming it a "hand-aeoline".

7. X-ray machines

Photo: DPA

The first X-ray machine, or radiography device, was invented by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, physics chair at the University of Würzburg. Röntgen apparently discovered the unknown radiation, which he marked with an x, while investigating cathode rays.

He noticed that the radiation could pass through human tissue but not bones. The first x-ray ever taken was of his wife’s hand. Upon seeing the image, she is said to have commented “I have seen my own death”.

8. Contact lenses

Story continues below…

Photo: DPA

Although Leonardo da Vinci is said to have been the first man to come up with the idea of a contact lens, it was a German by the name of Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick who first made a contact lens and successfully fitted it to the human eye. Fick’s prototype is of course far from the modern product we know today and could only be worn for an hour or two at a time due to its unwieldy size.

9. Playmobil

Photo: DPA

They are the foundation of most kids’ childhoods. Playmobil was invented by Hans Beck in the 1970s with the idea to make a flexible toy that was still simple enough for young children to understand. With the original toys being an American Indian, a cowboy and a builder, the little figures were a hit as soon as they came on the market.

10. Airbags

Photo: DPA

It is hardly a surprise that a piece of technology found inside a car was invented in Germany. Walter Linderer came up with the idea of using compressed air in a bag which would inflate when the bumpers of two cars made contact. He patented it in 1951, although his design didn’t inflate fast enough and had little practical value.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Brexit vote
British business owner in Germany: why I support Brexit
Alexander McWhinney, owner of The English Shops. Photo: Private.

Scottish business owner Alexander McWhinney tells The Local why he supported the vote for a Brexit despite being an expat - much to the surprise of employees at his stores in the Rhineland.

Germany seeks seat on UN security council
The United Nations Security Council. Photo: DPA

Berlin last had a seat at the highest table of international security in 2011-12. Now the Foreign Minister has announced that Germany wants the role again.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Britain can’t cherry-pick Brexit terms
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the EU could survive a Brexit and warned Britain the union would not tolerate "cherry-picking" in upcoming negotiations on their future relations.

This film makes Darmstadt look more romantic than Paris
The Russian Orthodox Church in Darmstadt. Source: City, Light and Movement.

Not quite sure where Darmstadt is? A short film shot by a Syrian refugee will have you rushing to locate it on a map.

VW agrees to $14.7 bn payout in US emissions probe
Photo: DPA

Volkswagen has agreed to pay out $14.7 billion in a settlement with US authorities and car owners in the probe over its emissions-cheating diesel-powered cars, court documents showed Tuesday.

Brexit vote
Left leader calls for German referendum on EU deals
Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht. Photo: DPA.

The left-wing leader of the official opposition party in Germany said that it’s time the German people also have a say on what goes on in Brussels.

Teacher overpaid quarter of a million euros. No one notices
Photo: DPA

The Düsseldorf teacher was paid a full-time salary for six years, despite only working part time.

Euro 2016
Germans react with glee to England’s Iceland humiliation
Distraught England players after Iceland defeat. photo: DPA

Still upset by their British brothers voting for Brexit, Germans expressed an overwhelming sense of Schadenfreude at England's Euro 2016 exit.

Cleaning spray sets off shock explosion in Frankfurt cafe
Photo: Frankfurt fire department.

Four people have been injured in an explosion at a cafe in a Frankfurt shopping district. The culprit: cleaning products.

Brexit vote
Merkel vows to create 'new impulse' for EU
Chancellor Angela Merkel with French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy vowed on Monday "a new impulse" for the EU as it reels from Brexit.

Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd