Czech inventions that changed the world

We all use Czech inventions without even knowing their origin. Examples? Here you go:

Soft contact lenses

Contact lenses are lenses which are placed on the eye cornea for medical (especially to compensate for poor eye sight) or cosmetic (temporarily changing the eye color) purposes. Currently, over 125 people worldwide, who make up 2% of the world population, make use of contact lenses to fulfill various needs. The primary use is medical because contact lenses are more comfortable than eye glasses. They do not gather water vapors and provide a wider field of view than eye glasses do. The distinction between soft contact lenses and hard contact lenses is the comfort provided by soft contact lenses. Soft contact lenses, by enabling oxygen movement through the lenses, reduce the phenomenon of drying out of the eyes that is associated with hard contact lenses. Soft contact lenses which include hydrogel can even be used while sleeping.

The hydrogel including soft contact lenses were invented on a Christmas afternoon in the year 1961 by Otto Wichterle, a Czech chemist who patented hydrogel as early as 1953. Experiments on the soft contact lenses were carried out in the Chemists home laboratory in Prague on a machine he invented himself and he was their first human test subject. The soft contact lenses were patented in 1962 in addition to 180 other patents registered by Otto Wichterle.

Sugar cubes

Sugar cubes were invented by Jakub Krystof Rad around 1840. Jakub Krystof Rad was the manager of a sugar refinery sent from Austria (which was then ruled, together with the Czech lands Bohemia and Moravia, by the Habsburg dynasty) to run a sugar factory in Moravia in 1840. The idea to manufacture sugar cubes arose after his wife cut her hand while trying to slice up a sugar lump into small slices. In 1841 he invented a machine to manufacture sugar cubes in the city of Dacice in Moravia and after a number of months of futile attempts he presented to his wife 300 sugar cubes manufactured in the factory. In 1843 Jakub wrote a patent for these machines and improved the lives of many people who had previously relied on imported and expensive sugar. In 1846 he returned to Austria and passed away in 1871 without any recognition of his contribution. Only in the 30s of the twentieth century was his work recognized and he was awarded with a monument in 1983.

The Pencil

A pencil is a writing implement composed of wood coated graphite. Graphite is a soft substance that, upon contact with paper leaves its mark upon it. The pencil requires sharpening but its writing can usually be erased with an eraser on its rear side. The pencil has been used as a writing implement since the year 1564, when Graphite deposits were found in England, and the inhabitants residing near the deposits used it to mark sheep. In the 17th century Germany began manufacturing pencils in mass production, but only in 1802 was the Pencil Patented by the Czech Company Kohinoor.

The Kohinoor Company was founded in 1790 and it manufactured, until that time, paper products. The company was named after the Indian diamond Kohinoor which was, at that time, the largest known diamond in the world and was included amongst the crown jewels of the queen of England. In 1802 the founder of the company, Joseph Hardmuth, discovered that a certain mixture of Graphite and clay stabilizes the graphite and thereby strengthens the pencil. He began manufacturing the pencils and patented them. In 1889 the Kohinoor pencils were displayed in the Paris world fair and won such great success that all Pencils manufactured thereafter resembled the Kohinoor pencil. The Kohinoor pencil effectively became an unofficial gold standard of quality, the Kohinoor Company was nationalized by the Czechoslovak government after the Second World War and upon the breakup of Czechoslovakia returned to private ownership. The Kohinoor Company markets to this very day writing implements, including pencils, and Kohinoor name still represents prestige and quality, just like the diamond for which it is named.

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