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Showing posts with the label Belgian inventors

Polydoor Lippens the inventor of the electric doorbell

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Polydoor Lippens was born on March 16, 1810 in Eeklo, Belgium. He graduated as an engineer after studying in Brussels and Paris. In 1850 he invented the vibrating mechanism for the electric bell, the vibrator. The patent for this was challenged by several other inventors, but eventually it was awarded to Lippens in Paris in 1858.

From 1850 to 1866 he worked for the Belgian Railways and at that time he filed nine patents associated with improvements in telegraphy. Later he became the physics teacher of the children of King Leopold I.  He returned to his hometown Eeklo in 1863. In 1869 he became a knight in the Leopolds Order.

Julius Nieuwland the inventor of synthetic rubber

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The type of synthetic rubber you sometimes see in mouse pads, laptop covers, wetsuits, camera cases masks and many other materials was in fact a Belgian invention. The creation of neoprene, that is what the synthetic rubber is called, was influenced by Belgian chemist and priest Reverent Julius Nieuwland and his research on acetylene chemistry. Nieuwland was born of Flemish parents in Hansbeke, Belgium and immigrated as a young boy with his family to South Bend, Indiana. Later he taught botany for a number of years at the Notre Dame university. In 1918 he became a professor of organic chemistry.

In 1920, Nieuwland produced a type of jelly that formed into an elastic compound similar to natural rubber. Neoprene has been considered superior to rubber in terms of its resistance to sunlight, abrasion, and temperature changes. 
Nieuwland mentioned his revolutionary finding during a lecture in New York, attended by a scientist from the American chemical company DuPont, 'Wallace Carothe…

Charles Van Depoele the inventor of the electric streetcar and much more

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The Belgian inventor Charles Van Depoele lived and worked in the 19th century America, but Van Depoele was born as Carolus Josephus Vandepoele in Lichtervelde, a small town in Belgium. As an electrical engineer he designed more than 200 electrical devices and was the direct rival of Thomas Edison. He got patented for 249 inventions, including various electric devices like a railway systems, lights, generators, motors, current regulators, pumps, telpher systems, batteries, hammers, rock drills, brakes, a gearless locomotive, a coal-mining machine and a pile-driver.

His invention of the electric tram, streetcar and trolleybus made him world famous. Charles Van Depoele died very young, at the age of 48, just imagine what he could have invented more if he just had the time.

Adolphe Quetelet the inventor of the 'Body Mass Index'

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Adolphe Quetelet was born in Ghent on February 22, 1796. He got his doctoral degree in mathematics in 1819 from the University of Ghent. That same year he relocated to Brussels, where he convinces dignitaries and donors to build an observatory. He became the first director of that observatory but later moved on to Uccle to the Royal Observatory of Belgium, where Quetelet specializes in the study of meteors, something not very common in those days. Because of his contribution to astronomy in general and by helping to explained the Phenomenon of a 'falling star', a crater on the back of the moon is named after him and also an asteroid.

But Adolphe Quetelet got more famous with the invention of the Body Mass Index (BMI), which he has developed, an index that reflects the ratio between the length and mass in a subject or person. That BMI formula is still used by doctors all over the world.

In honor of Adolphe Quetelet there is a statue of him in the Hertogstraat in Brussels.

Cricket was invented by Belgians!

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New academic research claims cricket is not English, but was imported by immigrants from northern Belgium. A poem thought to have been written in 1533 has been uncovered, which suggests the game originates from Flanders. German academic Heiner Gillmeister and his Australian colleague, Mr Campbell, say the discovery proves the quintessential English pastime is anything but English.
Mr Campbell has uncovered an apparent reference to cricket in the 16th Century work, The Image of Ipocrisie, attributed to the English poet John Skelton, which refers to Flemish weavers who settled in southern and eastern England. They are described as "kings of crekettes"; "wickettes" are mentioned too.

It is thought the weavers brought the game to England and played it close to where they looked after their sheep, using shepherd's crooks as bats.
Mr Campbell's research was based on earlier investigations by Mr Gillmeister, a linguist from the University of Bonn. He is certain c…

Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the Saxophone

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The Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax especially became famous for his invention of the saxophone, an instrument which is also named after him.

Adolphe Sax was born on November 6, 1814 in Dinant in Wallonia. His father, Charles-Joseph Sax, instrument maker is also known for some of the major changes he made to musical instruments. Learning from his father who was the boss of a musical instruments factory in Brussels, Adolphe Sax starts at a young age building new instruments.
At the age of 15 he participates in a contest in which he builds a flute and a clarinet. Sax follows among others an education at the Royal singing academy in Brussels.
After school Sax began to experiment with building new designs for instruments. His first major invention is an improvement of the design of the bass clarinet. At the age of twenty Adolphe Sax patented this invention.

Sax moved to Paris in 1841 where he designed a series of new instruments, including the bugle based on a Sax horn. His most imp…

Gilbert Mestdagh's Compact Cassette

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Kids these days don't even know what it is, but in the 70' and 80' this device was the most popular thing in the music industry, you could say it was the iPod or mp3 player of its time.

But did you know that the Compact Cassette was invented and developed in Hasselt, Belgium? Gilbert Mestdagh and his team invented it for the Philips concern. The Philips audio cassette was a lot smaller than other tape cartridges from that time, making it possible to use it in small battery-powered players that could be carried anywhere. The original idea was to use it for voice recordings. Philips licensed the technology widely, so it spread worldwide in no time. People started to record songs on it, sometimes by just holding it next to a radio while a song was playing. The illegal copying of music was born. Later other devices made it possible to to copy the music from a vinyl record or even from another Compact Cassettes.

The music industry decided to make pre-recorded tapes to sell in …

Victor Simon the inventor of the first kitchen robot

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Asking about Belgian inventors, you will probably first think of people like Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, Or Zenobe Gramme, who improved the alternator. Or maybe Leo Baekeland, the creator of the first synthetic plastic Bakeliet. However, Belgium was at the birthplace of a whole series of other inventions, even in your kitchen. What about the first kitchen robot?
Still in millions of kitchens today and spread over 5 continents you can find the "Passe-vite", French for "Passing true fast". But probably you know it as the "Food Mill". The Food Mill is a simple but nevertheless extremely handy device, which allows small amounts of soft foods such as cooked tomatoes, apples or potatoes to be crushed. The device is in a sense a bridge between the ordinary kitchen tools and the later invented electric mixers or kitchen robots.
Victor Simon was born in 1888 in the village of Hainaut Carnières, a place in the Belgian Ardennes, the French speaking …

The two Belgian brothers that invented oil painting

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Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck are famous for having invented oil painting by adding turpentine to colours. This made it possible to produce paintings with finer details and more vibrant colors.
In 1390, Jan van Eyck was born in the territories under the authority of the Prince Bishop of Liège, Jean de Bavière. Famous for his realistic and detailed portraits, the work of Jan van Eyck is mainly composed of depictions of the Virgin Mary.

Among his most famous works are The Arnolfini Portrait (1434), the portrait of Marguerite Van Eyck and the altarpiece at Saint Bavo Cathedral in Ghent, the masterpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), that he painted together with his brother. His older brother Hubert van Eyck also belonged to the school of Flemish primitive painters of the 15th century.

How the Belgians founded New York

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In order to avoid any confusion in this story, it is important to know that in the sixteenth century, the Netherlands covered a part of North of France and Lorraine, Belgium, Luxembourg and the present Netherlands. Its inhabitants were called the Belgians, and the maps represented the country in the shape of a lion: the "Leo Belgicus".


Besides, numerous maps from the sixteenth century showed this territory under the name of Belgium. The latter failed into disuse for the benefit of the Netherlands, and only reappeared in 1789 on the occasion of the first Belgian revolution. In 1831 Belgium became an independent country.
Today Belgium is a lot smaller and is divided into two big regions mostly based on the language they speak in that particular region. In the north there is Flanders where they speak Flemish (Dutch) and in the south there is the Walloon part where they speak French. Almost in the center and between the two parts is the region of the capital Brussels.

Let's …

The Manifesto of Karl Marx was written in Brussels

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The Communist Manifesto is an 1848 political pamphlet by German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Commissioned by the Communist League and originally published in London just as the revolutions of 1848 began to erupt, the Manifesto was later recognised as one of the world's most influential political manuscripts.


In Belgium, Marx had the most productive time of his life. It was here that his ideas of dialectical materialism took shape. At that time Marx lived in different places in and around Brussels. He was a frequent visitor of  "Le Cygne"(the swan). According to legend, Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto there, drinking wine and smoking a nice cigar. But Marx was too poor for that, instead he used the backroom of the bar to educate workers about their exploitation by the ruling elite. In his spare time he wrote the manuscript that would later make him and Friedrich Engels very famous.

The house on the Grand Place in Brussels was built in 1698 in the Louis…

Abraham Verhoeven the inventor of the Newspaper

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Abraham Verhoeven (1575–1652) was born in Antwerp and was the publisher of the first newspaper of the Southern Netherlands, now Belgium. It was probably also the first newspaper in the world.

In 1605 he got his license to print news of military victories in woodblock or copperplate. Later he also produced illustrated news pamphlets. In 1620 he renewed his license in broader terms and began to print his news in booklets and as a serie. The regularly printed news bulletin was the first newspaper of the Southern Netherlands.

It was also the first regularly illustrated newspaper, and the first news bulletin to print a headline on the front page. The newspaper had no consistent name, but was widely known as the "Nieuwe Tijdinghen" (New Tidings), a retroactive designation given to it by historians and bibliographers. The British Library, however, catalogues it as the "Antwerp Gazette".

The publication of the "Nieuwe Tijdinghen" ceased in 1629 to be succeeded s…

Georges Lemaître the man behind the big bang theory

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In 1927 a Belgian priest and physicist "Georges Lemaître" made what is perhaps the biggest discovery in modern cosmology, "our universe is expanding" he calculated. Four years later, he proposed that the universe began with a “single quantum” what we now call the big bang. Yet at that time the public and many scientists remain unaware of Lemaître’s seminal writings and achievements.

Georges Lemaître was born on July 17 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium. At the age of seventeen, he entered the engineering school at the Catholic University of Leuven. His education was interrupted with the German invasion of Belgium in August of 1914. Twenty-year-old Georges immediately volunteered for the Belgian army. After the war, Lemaître returned to Leuven and earned his doctorate in mathematics in 1920. Lemaître then studied astronomy at Cambridge University with Arthur Eddington in England, and the U.S. at Harvard College Observatory and M.I.T. After earning a second doctorate in 19…

Joseph Plateau inventor of the moving picture

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Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau, born 14 October 1801, was a Belgian physicist. He was the first person to demonstrate the illusion of a moving image. To do this he used counter rotating disks with repeating drawn images in small increments of motion on one and regularly spaced slits in the other. He called this device of 1832 the phenakistoscope.



His father, born in Tournai, was a talented flower painter, at the age of six the young Joseph Plateau was already able to read, and this made him a child prodigy in those times. While attending the primary schools, he was particularly impressed by a lesson of physics: enchanted by the seen experiments, he promised himself to penetrate their secrets sooner or later.

He used to spend his school holidays in Marche-Les-Dames, with his uncle and his family: his cousin and playfellow was Auguste Payen, who later became an architect and the principal designer of the Belgian railways. At the age of fourteen he lost his father and mother: the trau…

Gerardus Mercator the inventor of the world map

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Gerardus Mercator (5 March 1512 – 2 December 1594) was a Flemish cartographer. He was born in Rupelmonde, Belgium. He is remembered for the Mercator projection world map named after him.
Mercator was born Gheert Cremer (or Gérard de Crémère) in the Flemish town of Rupelmonde to parents from Gangelt in the Duchy of Jülich.

"Mercator" is the Latinized form of his name. It means "merchant". He was educated in 's-Hertogenbosch by the famous humanist Macropedius and at the University of Leuven. Despite Mercator's fame as a cartographer, his main source of income came through his craftsmanship of mathematical instruments.
In Leuven, he worked with Gemma Frisius and Gaspar Myrica from 1535 to 1536 to construct a terrestrial globe. Although the role of Mercator in the project was not primarily as a cartographer, but rather as a highly skilled engraver of brass plates. Mercator's own independent map-making began only when he produced a map of Palestine in 1537;…

Edward De Smedt inventor of road asphalt

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Professor Edward J. de Smedt invented modern road asphalt in 1870 at Columbia University in New York City after emigrating from Belgium. He patented it and called it "sheet asphalt pavement" but it became known as French asphalt pavement. Because a natural rock known as asphalt had been used to construct buildings for many years.

In 1824 large blocks of natural asphalt rock were placed on the wide boulevard in Paris known as the Champs-Élysées. This was the first time this type of rock was used for a road.

On 29 July 1870, the first sheet of Edward de Smedt's asphalt pavement was laid on William Street in Newark, New Jersey. He then engineered a modern, "well-graded," maximum-density road asphalt. The first uses of this road asphalt were in Battery Park and on Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1872. Five years later 54,000 square yards of sheet asphalt from Trinidad Lake were used on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.

Today almost all the roads in developed …

Roller Skates a Belgian invention

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John Merlin was a Belgian inventor and horologist, born September 17, 1735 in Huys, Belgium. He was the first recorded person in history to invent the roller skates or inline skates. Doing so in the 1760's in London, England.

Merlin wore a pair of his new skates to a masquerade party at Carlisle-House in London. Though he was a well-known inventor, he was not a good skater. He could not control his speed or direction and crashed into a large mirror, severely injuring himself and possibly setting back the sport of roller skating for years.


John Merlin also improved musical instruments and manufactured automata, such as Cox's timepiece. He created Merlin's Mechanical Museum to display his machines.

In conjunction with London inventor James Cox, Merlin was also responsible for the Silver Swan automaton now on display at the Bowes Museum in County Durham, England..He worked in Paris and later in London, where he died in 1803.


The JPEG picture is a Belgian invention

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Ingrid Daubechies (born 17 August 1954 in Houthalen, Belgium) is a physicist and mathematician. Between 2004 and 2011 she was Professor in the mathematics at the mathematics departments of the Princeton University.

In January 2011 she moved to the Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Ingrid Daubechies is the first woman to become president of the International Mathematical Union (2011–2014). She is best known for her work with wavelets in image compression.


She especially got famous for figuring out the crazy mathematical formulas she called "Daubechies Wavelets" involved in the creating the JPEG2000 conversion for image compression. Without the Daubechies Wavelets, there would be no digital cinemas or speedy fingerprint scans. In 2012 King Albert II of Belgium granted her the title of Baroness.

Neuhaus the inventor of the chocolate bonbon

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Neuhaus is a notable Belgian chocolatier which manufactures and sells luxury chocolates, biscuits and ice cream. The company was founded in 1857 by Jean Neuhaus, a Swiss immigrant, who opened the first store in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in central Brussels. In 1912, his grandson, Jean Neuhaus II, invented the chocolate bonbon or praline.

Having arrived in Brussels from his native Switzerland, Jean Neuhaus opened an apothecary shop in 1857 at the Galeries Royales, near the Grand Place. He began his business by covering the medicines in chocolate to make them more easy to handle. Liquorices, guimauves (similar to marshmallows) and dark chocolate tablets soon joined more traditional preparations on the display counter.


With the assistance of his son Frédéric, he spent an increasing amount of time and effort in preparing and inventing new delicacies to the point where the regular pharmaceutical products gradually ended up making way for them.
In 1912, the year of Frédéric's d…