Polish inventions that have influenced the course of history
Poland is considered to be a country of great innovation, where you can find everything, such as “kasyna online”. Poland has not been at the forefront of inventions, which does not mean, however, that Poles have not had inventions that have significantly influenced the world. It is worth mentioning them on the occasion of Polish Science Day, which is celebrated on 19 February. In this material, we will show some of the most important discoveries and achievements of Polish scientists, engineers and inventors.
The paraffin lamp
The paraffin lamp is undoubtedly the most important Polish invention that changed and facilitated life around the world a while before the age of electricity. In 1853, the Polish pharmacist Ignacy Łukasiewicz developed a model for a kerosene-powered lamp that burned much longer than previously used lamps for various types of fuel or the candles that were still popular at the time.
In 1854, the first paraffin lamp, of which he was the inventor, was lit in Gorlice. In the same year, Łukasiewicz also opened the world’s first oil mine, which only sealed his position as a leading Polish innovator.
The Lumiere brothers are credited as the inventors of the cinematograph, but they too emphasised that the real pioneer in this field was Kazimierz Proszynski. He developed a portable automatic camera that used compressed air to drive the film tape mechanism. 14 years earlier, in 1894, he had developed the pleograph, a cinematographic apparatus used simultaneously to record film material and to project it.
The pleograph recorded images on photographic film and at the same time acted as a projector to display them as moving images. However, the first projections of the pleograph had problems with the proper synchronisation of the tape travel. Proszynski removed this problem in an improved version of the device called the biopleograph in 1899. He used his inventions to create the first Polish films, including The Return of the Birbant and The Adventures of the Carriage Driver, both in 1902 .
The pioneer of this technology, who laid the foundations for its later development, was the Polish physicist Mieczyslaw Wolfke. A scientist with a very eccentric disposition, which, however, in his case was an advantage. Wolfke formulated the foundations of holography back in 1920 in his paper “Über die Möglichkeit der optischen Abbildung von Molekulargittern” (“On the possibility of optical imaging of molecular lattices”). The first 3D hologram was not created until 1962, after the invention of the laser. Its creator was Soviet scientist Yuri Denisiuk.
Interestingly, the Pole’s work passed without much notice, as the 1971 Nobel Prize winner for holography research, Dennis Gabor, recalled Wolfke saying: “I did not know at the time, and neither did Bragg, that Mieczyslaw Wolfke had proposed the method in 1920 without, however, attempting its experimental implementation”.
The creator of both the bulletproof material (invented in 1897, ‘Żegleń’s Fabric’) and the armour plates with which vehicles, for example, could be protected, was a Polish monk from the Congregation of the Resurrectionists, Kazimierz Żegleń. Żegleń developed his inventions in the United States, where he left in 1890, at the age of 21. There he established the Zeglen Bullet Proof Cloth Co. factory, producing bulletproof vests on a large scale.
The first bullet-proof waistcoats were woven from silk, the most durable material (from which clothing could be made) at the time. Zegleń would then impregnate even a dozen layers of the waistcoat with a substance of his own making.
Teletroscope – precursor of television
The inventor Jan Szczepanik was called, among other things, the “Polish Edison”. This is not surprising when we look at the list of his inventions, which, like Edison’s, were connected to the transmission of images, sound and electricity.
One of the most important inventions, laying the foundations for the later development of television, was the teletroscope, i.e. a device using the groundbreaking technology of breaking up an image into dots and transmitting them just so, to then display them, point by point, in a different location. This is exactly how television and the display of images on screens subsequently worked. Importantly, the telescope transmitted both colour images and sound. The invention was talked about all over the world and was also featured in an extensive Times magazine article.
Jan Szczepanik and Ludwig Kleiberg received a patent for the device in 1987. The photo shows a reconstruction of the device – a screen that displayed an image ‘transmitted’ from a source several metres away.