10 essential inventions you didn't know were German
DPA/The Local · 14 Oct 2016, 10:28
Published: 14 Oct 2016 10:24 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Oct 2016 10:28 GMT+02:00
- 12 brilliant German words you won't find in English (12 Oct 16)
- 10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany (07 Oct 16)
- 10 things you never knew about German reunification (30 Sep 16)
1. Coffee filter paper
The original coffee filter. Evan-Amos / Wikimedia Commons
We've been drinking coffee for hundreds of years, with the first European coffee houses opening in the mid-17th century. But, it was this invention that made coffee drinking at home so much easier than it had ever been before.
Dresden housewife Melitta Bentz started to experiment to find a way to prevent coffee from becoming too bitter and to remove coffee grounds.
It was when she tried using the blotting paper from her children's school books that she had her eureka moment. In 1908 she patented her invention, and began to sell her papers to the caffeine-loving public. Many coffee snobs still insist that it's the best method out there!
2. The Easter Bunny
Lesekreis / Wikimedia Commons
As with most folkloric symbols, there are many different theories for why the 'Easter Bunny' became so celebrated. But it is thought that the Easter symbol, now so popular in America, travelled to the States with German immigrants. Today’s Easter Bunny grew out of religious practices in pre-Christian Germany.
The Osterhase - actually a hare rather than a rabbit - seems to have originated from pagan traditions. Eostra, a goddess of fertility and spring, was associated with the hare because of the animal’s high reproductive rate. The hare, along with the eggs, then became a symbol of fertility and birth, and is now an essential part of any Easter.
3. Gummy Bears
The iconic sweet - called Gummibärchen in German - was invented by Hans Riegel in Germany in 1922. Using acacia gum to create coloured candy, he started his own company in Bonn in 1920. The world-famous company Haribo is in fact an abbreviation of HAns RIegel von BOnn, and it started to produce these chewy kid's favourites in 1922.
4. Radio-controlled watch
Ever wondered why Germans are so punctual? Maybe it's because German watchmaker Junghans introduced the first radio-controlled clocks. It started in 1985 with the first table clock for private use. By 1990, Junghans had developed the technology to fit in a wristwatch and introduced the Mega 1 watch. Since it only deviates by one second every million years, you shouldn't need to be resetting this one much.
It doesn't take all that much German beer to give you a killer headache the next day - but luckily Germans also discovered one of the more popular hangover cures.
The world's favourite painkiller was in fact discovered in Germany. 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 World, 12,000 of the 50,000 tonnes of Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) produced annually are still made by Bayer AG.
6. Fahrenheit scale
Photo: Pixabay/public domain
Now mostly replaced by the Celsius temperature scale, it's only really the US and a few surrounding nations that stubbornly stand by the older method for measuring temperature.
But Fahrenheit - in which water's freezing point is 32 degrees and boiling point is 212 - was the world standard until relatively recently. The scale was invented by German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724.
DaimlerChrysler AG / Wikimedia Commons
The claim of inventing the first car is always going to be a bold one, but Carl Benz's application for a patent on January 29th 1886 for "a vehicle powered by a gas energy" is as good as any.
The patent is often regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile. This preceded the production of the Model T Ford by 22 years. Little more than a motorized tricycle, it bears little resemblance to the luxurious Mercedes cars of today, but was nonetheless a significant landmark in the history of the automobile.
When asked to think of Germany, you may well think of a portly, red-faced man wearing lederhosen, a green hat and a chirpy grin, playing folk songs on a huge accordion.
In fact, early versions of the instrument date back to third century BC China - but the first accordion was indeed invented by a German. Christian Friedrich Buschmann was a musical instrument maker who attached bellows to a portable keyboard with vibrating reeds, naming it the "Handäoline". It was patented in 1822, and the term 'accordion' was first used in 1829.
9. The card chip
In the 1960s, financial service providers were looking for a way to make their new plastic payment cards more secure. A magnetic strip and signature didn't provide enough information - so in 1977 after nine years of development, German inventors Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Göttrup created the first card with an in-built programmable microprocessor.
They patented this invention, and it evolved into the chip and PIN cards in our wallets today.
10. Settlers of Catan
This multi-award-winning board game about building cities, managing resources and trading with rivals is among the most critically acclaimed games of recent decades.
Invented by Klaus Teuber in 1995, by its 20th birthday, the game had sold more than 22 million copies in 30 different languages. The Washington Post's Blake Eskin called it "the board game of our time" in 2010, and a production company bought the film and TV rights in 2015.