Scientists, inventors, passionate researchers in their selected fields and tireless seekers of new, previously unthought of solutions. With pioneering discoveries, they paved new paths and pushed the boundaries of the possible, changing the world and lives of people. We present important personalities from the Western Balkans who have made an imprint in their period and beyond.
Author: Jan Tomše
1856 - 1943
One of the most important inventions by Nikola Tesla, a New York-based scientist, is a multi-phase induction electric motor operating on the principle of alternating current. Its AC system has made it possible to remotely transmit electricity in more efficient manner. The first hydroelectric power plant on Niagara Falls was built based on his design. Tesla was active in many fields: rotating magnetic fields, remote control, solar energy, radio… Life magazine ranked Nikola Tesla among the 100 most important people in the last thousand years.
1852 - 1897
Schwarz, who has been interested in the mechanics and construction of aircraft since a young age, is considered to be the discoverer of duralumin, which is still used today in aircraft manufacturing. In 1896, with the help of the then German government, David Schwarz assembled an airship in order to make it safer than the hot-air balloons of that time. The 48-meter-long and 13.5-meter- -wide airship could steer itself well on its first take-off, although the structure was only one meter off the ground. Though he did not receive credits for inventing the first aircraft, the fact remains that Schwarz is the world’s pioneering aircraft designer. Schwarz did not live to see his invention flying 464 meters above ground in its second take-off. The plans for his airship were later purchased from his widow by a German general, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
Herman Potočnik Noordung
1892 - 1929
Herman Potočnik Noordung initially worked as an expert in bridge and rail construction, but in his final years he devoted himself to man’s penetration into space. An educated expert in rocketry, in his book The Problem of Space Traveling – a Rocket Engine, that is considered one of the foundational parts of the first generation of space explorers, he described a plan for space exploration, the building of a permanent space station for Earth observation, and highlighted the potential for research that could be performed from space. Pundits characterize the book as the fundamental work of man’s existence in space, and Potočnik’s ideas have underlined the American, Russian and German space exploration.
1858 - 1925
Regarded as the father of dactyloscopy, Vučetić was a seeker of solutions for more effective crime detection. He introduced a procedure of person identification through a method based on the knowledge that fingerprints are unique. Vučetić devoted himself to the study of papillary lines and significantly upgraded the identification methods used up to that point, which were, in the second half of 19th century, all incomplete to a certain degree. In practice, he proved the value of his invention by solving the case of a mother who blamed her lover for the murder of her children, but it turned out that the bloody fingerprints found at the crime scene were hers. Vučetić has published several books about his findings, he was also a member of the French Academy.
Mihailo Petrović Alas
1868 - 1943
One of the greatest Serbian mathematicians and inventors, a world-renowned expert in differential equations and phenomenology, he is globally known as the author of the prototype of one of the first analogue computers to operate on the basis of hydraulics. At the World Scienece fair in 1900, he received a special award for the hydro generator, his most important invention. He was also active in many other fields, including as a writer of laws and interstate agreements, and a musician. As a passionate traveler, Petrovic visited over 50 countries, including the North and South Poles. He summed up travel impressions in several books.
1854 - 1935
He is recognized as the father of modern telephony, who contributed to the invention of remote telephony. The collection of inventions by Mihajlo Pupin is rich and extends from discoveries such as transmission of radio signals through the transmission of transmitters, development of radio and radio technology, and modern wired and mobile communications. His discoveries on transmission of radio waves were identified by UNESCO as extremely important inventions that contributed to the functioning of modern telecommunications. His findings paved the way for the Internet, without which we can no longer imagine life today.
Ivan Vukić (Ivan Blaž Lupis)
1813 - 1875
After retiring and returning to Rijeka, Lupis, a longtime officer in the Austro-Hungarian navy, designed an unmanned vessel that could attack an enemy vessel from a greater distance. His meter-long model was filled with explosive and could be steered offshore, being able to crash and sink an enemy vessel after the collision. His invention is considered the forerunner of the modern torpedo. He upgraded the invention in collaboration with British engineer Robert Whitehead, who later developed a new naval weapon based on Lupis’s invention. In the aftermath, the Rijeka plant became the world’s first torpedo maker, and Lupis received the noble title for his merits.
1814 - 1864
Puhar, as an inventor, has put Slovenia on the world map for the development of photography. He based his invention on a previously known daguerreotype, except that he used glass plates instead of expensive copper plates. His photography method reduced the camera’s exposure time to only 15 seconds, a record low for that period. He later refined the process, and to this day his original approach is still baffling his mimics, as no-one has been able to replicate it. Puhar’s invention is oftentimes considered being in many aspects better than the official worldwide invention of photography attributed to Frenchman Louis Jacques Daguerre. Unlike Daguerre’s, Puhar’s photography was also reproductive.
Eduard Slavoljub Penkala
1871 - 1922
Penkala is best known for inventing an automatic mechanical pen and a fountain pen. As a prolific inventor, author of more than 80 inventions useful in everyday life, industry, transportation and other fields, his name is linked to the invention of thermal bottle, rotating toothbrushes, anode batteries, anti-rheumatics, and he also patented a turntable needle with extended shelf life.