The Czech culture has a vast portfolio of inventions that have changed our lives in one way or another—some of the discoveries we use in our daily routine without even knowing their origin. Discover what bright ideas Czechs brought to the realm of today’s world.
1. Sugar cube (1843)
Who would have thought that the sugar we use every day when drinking coffee or tea has relation to the Czech Republic? Not us! Back in 1843, Jakub Kryštof Rad, a manager of the sugar factory, held the patent for the invention. Like many other inventions, it happened by accident.
At the time, sugar was sold by the loaf or lump, which were dense brown bricks of sweetness that needed to be split into usable portions with tools. Rad’s wife cut her finger while disassembling a loaf one day, so her husband came up with a remedy. Rad devised a way to pulverize sugar and then re-form it into teaspoon-sized pieces. It was ideal for hot beverages such as coffee and tea, and it was less than perfect for chilly drinks that didn’t dissolve quickly.
2. The word ‘robot’ (1921).
The Czech playwright Karel Čapek began writing science fiction novels and plays in collaboration with his brother in 1921. Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R) was completed after a year of perfecting tone and style. The play, about a factory full of sentient androids performing menial labor for their human masters, became a worldwide sensation.
It was the first time the word “robot” appeared in a text. The term “robot” was used in this sense to refer to artificial organisms. It comes from the Czech word “roboti,” which means “slave” or “drudge.” His robots were more closely identified with machines than with people; in 2021, we would most likely refer to them as cyborgs.
3. Polarography (1922)
Jaroslav Heyrovský, a Czech chemist, invented polarography in 1922. In analytical chemistry, a chemical, electrochemical approach known as polarography or voltammetry is known as polarography.
The technique behind the polarograph is simple. When a predefined potential is supplied to two electrodes immersed in the investigated solution, Heyrovský’s apparatus monitors the current flows. The first polarograph was demonstrated in 1924, and the approach was widely used within ten years.
4. Sobering-up station (1951)
We all know that Czechs love drinking beer and have an addiction to it. Jaroslav Skála was the first doctor in the Czech Republic to establish an alcohol detox clinic. Until the 1950s, alcoholism was treated primarily as a medical issue, not a moral failing. Patients were left home to fend for themselves, with a significant likelihood of self-destruction.
The sobering-up station helped more than 180,000 people during its first 30 years of operations. More than 1 million people were treated in other health facilities across the country. There were around 63 sobering-up stations in Czechoslovakia while it was at its height.
5. Contact lenses (1961)
Approximately 25 million people suffer from impaired vision and have to either wear glasses or use lenses. Thanks to Otto Wichterle, a Czech chemist and professor, contact lenses are available to everyone around the globe.
Wichterle created a transparent hydrofoil plastic called “hydroxyethyl methacrylate,” which was mostly made of water and was soft and malleable while wet but hardened when dry. Later, he built a lens-making machine out of his son’s toy building kit and a little engine from a bike for Christmas in 1961. The first gel contact lens was born as a result of this ingenious invention.