Croatian Inventions that Changed the World

Croatia may be a small country, but it had a huge impact on the world thanks to some of the most important inventions that helped humankind. In today’s article, I will share the most important Croatian inventors (and their inventions) that have reshaped history

For a quick and brief summary, here are some of the most impactful and practical Croatian inventions:

  • The Tie (Cravat): Created by Croatian mercenaries in the 17th century, the tie is now a global symbol of style and elegance.
  • The Mechanical Pencil: Invented by Slavoljub Penkala, this tool has become essential for students and professionals worldwide.
  • Alternating Current: Probably the best-known Croatian scientist, Nikola Tesla, is responsible for many innovations, mainly the alternating current that powers our homes today.
  • The Parachute: Invented by Faust Vrančić, the modern parachute has saved countless lives and revolutionized the fields of aviation and space exploration.

And apart from these, I have another surprise for you at the end – but I won’t spoil it now. Instead, I want to get a bit more in-depth with all these inventions and their inventors.

Nikola Tesla – Inventor of Alternating Current

Nikola Tesla invention
The Plasma Ball, one of Tesla’s most popular inventions

Nikola Tesla, born in 1856 in the village of Smiljan in the Lika region of Croatia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), is probably the most important and best-known figure in the annals of Croatian inventions and one of the greatest inventors globally.

One interesting fun fact about Tesla and his very scientific background is that his father was a Serbian Orthodox priest. Usually, people were expected to follow suit, but Nikola Tesla was, fortunately, encouraged by his father to pursue his passions.

He developed the multi-phase system of alternating currents, enabling efficient electricity transfer, discovered the principle of the rotating magnetic field, and was a pioneer in the early experiments with electromagnetic waves.

Tesla’s prolific inventing did not stop there; he holds over 700 patents. His inventions are constantly present in our daily lives when it comes to modern tech, integral to devices such as televisions, computers, refrigerators, and virtually everything else in the modern household.

Also read: The Most Unusual Museums in Croatia

The Tie or Cravat

Croatian cravat

Did you know that the first tie originated in Croatia? Yes, Croatia is recognized as the birthplace of the tie. The term “croata” is the root word in many languages for words that mean “tie” or “cravat”.

The history of the tie takes us back centuries, when it was first use as a symbol of fidelity. Legend has it that Croatian women would give their boyfriends and husbands a kerchief when they went to war.

This gesture served as a reminder of their love, intended to provide strength and courage during the challenging times away from home.

Men wore these kerchiefs around their necks as a display of respect and commitment to their loved ones. This practice quickly became an essential part of national attire and military uniforms.

Today, for those seeking an authentic Croatian necktie, Zagreb stands as the modern capital of the tie.

Faust Vrančić – Inventor of the Parachute

Croatian parachute

Did you know that Faust Vrančić, the inventor of the first practical parachute, was born in Šibenik, Dalmatia, in 1551? Vrančić was a polymath who delved into natural sciences, lexicography, and history. In 1595, he published a groundbreaking scientific work.

This publication included not only other technical inventions but also detailed plans and designs for the first parachute, way before it became commonly used in the 20th century.

Vrančić’s inventions, however, extend beyond the parachute. He also designed a mill powered by tides, a rope way, and offered innovative designs for metal bridges (today’s suspension bridges), all described in his renowned book on mechanics, Machinae Novae (61 constructions, Venice, 1595).

Similar to Leonardo da Vinci, he simply was far ahead of his time.

Also read: The Best Spots for Windsurfing in Croatia

Edvard Slavoljub Penkala – The Great Inventor of Writing Instruments

writing pen

Among the many practical and useful Croatian inventions, the automatic pencil – known here as the “penkala” – is probably the best known and something that the entire world uses today.

Edvard Slavoljub Penkala, a man dedicated to simplifying practical devices, and enhancing their usefulness and quality, created this device and many others, as he was always interested in solving technical problems and was frequently found tinkering in his own small workshop at home.

Interestingly, Penkala was not born in Croatia, but in Liptovsky St Mikulas, now part of the Slovak Republic, to a Polish father and a Dutch mother.

After marrying, Penkala moved to Zagreb in 1900 and found the city invigorating and inspiring. In a form of showing respect to his adopted homeland, he adopted the Croatian name Slavoljub, marking his deep connection and loyalty to Croatia.

Marco Polo – Explorer

Marco Polo impersonator

This is the surprise I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Although not really an inventor, he was a discoverer in an unique way – and one of the most important people in history.

Despite some Italian claims to the contrary, Marco Polo was indeed born in 1254 in Korčula, on the island of the same name, where his family home still stands.

At a time when Europe was largely oblivious to the rich cultures of the East, and concepts like paper money were unheard of, a seventeen-year-old Marco Polo embarked on a journey from Venice to China to meet the great Kublai Khan.

The Khan grew so fond of Marco Polo that he appointed him governor of a vast region. This bond persuaded Polo to stay at the Mongolian court for 17 years.

During this time, he extensively traveled across Asia, experiences he later detailed in his famous travelogue, “Milijun” (Million).

Notably, he is credited with introducing pasta to Europe from China, a culinary delight for which we are eternally grateful. The only thing I can say is: Marco Polo, thank you for this gastronomic pleasure!

Pin this for later:

Croatian Inventions Pinterest Pin

Are there other Croatian inventions that you think should’ve been mentioned above? Let me and the readers know by commenting below.

Thanks for sharing this article!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.