What Have the Germans Ever Done for Us?
Here in the UK, we like to think we have invented everything, and that any good idea must have had a Brit involved in it at some point. Perhaps we’re not quite so blinkered in this respect as our American cousins, who have been accused of rewriting history through their movies, but we’re certainly not good at giving credit to our European neighbours where it’s due. One of the countries which has contributed the most to world knowledge and invention (apart from the UK, of course), is Germany.
Cars and Engines
Germany has a great reputation for building quality, reliable cars and brands like Audi and Porsche are popular the world over. The invention of the petrol driven car engine in 1885 was down to a German, Karl Benz. Benz started selling his automobile in 1888, and his wife was one of the first people to make a long distance trip driving a car. The name of Benz is still well known in the motoring world today, due to its association with Daimler and latterly Mercedes.
Our stereotypical view of Germans is of rather serious, unsmiling people who love their gadgets and gizmos. Although wholly unfounded, this idea may come from the fact that Germans have long since been at the forefront of scientific discoveries. German scientist Robert Bunsen invented the gas burner which all of us used in school science lessons. Hans Geiger was behind the discovery of atomic energy and invented the Geiger counter to measure radiation. The Farenheit scale for measuring temperature takes its name from Daniel Farenheit, a German physicist of the 17th and 18th centuries. There are a huge number of other scientific discoveries accredited to Germany, including quantum mechanics, x-rays and measurements like hertz and ohm.
We’ve all heard of the increasing problems of Alzheimer’s disease, and this name comes from Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist who first described and wrote about the condition in the early part of the 20th century. Morphine, which forms the basis of most heavy duty painkillers used throughout the world was first discovered by a German chemist in 1804. It was a German pharmaceutical company who introduced Aspirin too.
If anyone asks you to name famous sports shoe brands, chances are you’d say Adidas, which was formed by German Adi Dassler in the 1920s. A German medic gave his name to Dr Martens boots, which he invented after an ankle injury. Although the rights to Dr Martens were bought in the 1950s by a British company, the origin remains German. And what better item to wear with your Dr Martens than a pair of Levi Strauss jeans? The godfather of denim was born in southern Germany, before emigrating to America where he patented his famous workwear.
These people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to German discoveries and inventions. Germans are also responsible for Playmobil, the coffee filter, tomato ketchup and mass market cameras. So although there’s no harm in national pride, it’s also worth taking time to recognise the substantial contribution to our everyday lives from Germany.
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