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10 genius ways German inventors improved our lives

The Local · 16 Jan 2016, 11:00

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

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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

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.

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