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We have so much to thank the Italians for – from the Roman roads to their delicious cuisine – which is why so many of us love to visit Italy, to the lively streets and ancient ruins of a Rome city break to mountainous Abruzzo villa holidays.
But they have also brought all manner of fantastic, life-changing inventions which have helped shape society to become what it is today. Many of these inventions would not normally be associated with Italy, so expect a few surprises as you read on!
Perhaps the least surprising invention to feature on this list, the espresso machine. It was built and patented by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, who first demonstrated his invention at the Turin General Exposition of 1884 and was granted a patent in the same year for ‘new steam machinery for the economic and instantaneous confection of coffee beverage’.
This prototype was then improved upon by Milanese mechanic Luigi Bezzera. It is no wonder that the Italian’s hold coffee so dearly to their hearts!
If you can’t see why Italians inventors play a big part in society, you may want toget your eyes checked. Eyeglasses are a product of Salvino D’Armato’s desperate attempt to correct his vision after he damaged his eyes while examining light refraction in 1284. Though many people dispute the Armato as beingthetrue inventor, the true story of who really invented eyeglasses is rather fuzzy.
Yes,Antonio Meuccidid invent that one.In 1849 the Florentine inventor first managed to transmit the sound of the human voice using electrical wiresand he called his invention “the talking telegraph”, which he then changed to “telettrofono“.
The posthumous dispute between him and Alexander Graham Bell on the paternity of the original invention went on for decades and it was finally settled by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2002 when Antonio Meucci was finally and officially credited with having registered the first-ever patent for it. In 1871 he had registered a temporary patent but had subsequently not been able to pay for its renewal, which allowed Bell to swipe in and claim the invention as his own. What Bell can still be credited with is the quote “I truly believe that one day there will be a telephone in every town in America“, which turned out to be one of the most hilarious understatements in the history of technology
Evangelista Torricelli isn’t an international name. Nonetheless, his mentor was Galileo Galilei. Torricelli is behind one ofItaly’s most famous inventions: thebarometer. This instrument is used to measure atmospheric pressure and to forecast the weather.
In 1643, Torricelli found out that changes in atmospheric pressure would influence the way mercury behaves inside air tight tubes. In fact, mercury rose and fell. After a handful of years, he created the barometer, an instrument fully based on this simple, initial observation.
Guglielmo Marconi first managed to establish e long-distance connection between a transmitter and a receiver using radio waves in 1894. To be fair, his first transmission was not particularly impressive content-wise: its accomplishment consisted in the ringing of a bell. This was, however, the first – and by the standards of that time mind-bogglingly impressive – step towards one of the most relevant Italian inventions of modern times:the radio transmitter. In its earlier years, Marconi’s new technology was used primarily as a basis for the wireless telegraph, which was the pinnacle of communication technology at the time. It took Marconi a few more years to perfect his invention and establish proper radio communication between distant points, and his efforts won him a Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909.
Indeed, one of the most famous of Italy’s inventions is the newspaper.
During the 16th century, the Venetian government decided it would be useful to keep citizens updated on local events and political news. In 1556, Venice published the first newspaper. Ever.
In fact, it was the first publication entirely dedicated to current events. While different from our modern concept of a daily newspaper, the invention led the way for its creation. By the way, according to historians the actual “first newspaper” was the Relation aller Furnemmen und gedenckwurdigen Historien,published by Johann Carolus in Strasbourg in 1605.
Banks date back to the early years of theItalian Renaissanceand were created in Florence byGiovanni Bicci de’Medici, of the über-famous homonymous family. He opened the de’ Medicis’ family bank in 1397.
Italy is also home to the oldest bank still in operation today, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which opened in 1472. The English word ‘bank’ derived from the Italian word ‘banco’ or ‘banca’ which originally simply meant a bench with a back. Over the years the name developed in meaning, changing to a shop country, a work bench and finally a counter where money would exchange hands!
Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the Voltaic Pile or, as you might know, it, the battery. What would we do without our AAs? Remote controls wouldn’t work, and an enormous amount of children’s toys wouldn’t either.
The first battery was the brainchild of ItalianAlessandro Volta, who was born in 1745 on Lake Como. In 1800, just to inaugurate with a bang the new century, Volta came up with his voltaic battery, which was able to produce electricity thanks to its copper and zinc opposite poles, immersed in a dilution of sulfuric acid. The nameVoltashould bring something more to mind, though:the volt, the unit used to measure electricity, which has been, of course, inspired by his own name.
The Italian contribution to music is overwhelmingly evident in many aspects. outside the circle of professional musicians – particularly classical ones – non many are aware that one of the inventions that changed the history of music and composition is actually Italian. We are referring of course to the Pianoforte, which is an evolution of an instrumentinvented in Florence by Bartolomeo Cristofori in the late XVII centuryand originally calledgravicembaloand successively rechristenedfortepianobefore it was given its current name. Up until Cristofori perfected his invention, the harpsichord was the keyboard instrument on which the great composers of Europe had written and performed the immortal compositions for which they are still famed.
To be fair, the Jacuzzi is anItalian-American invention, which makes it all the cooler, right?
Candido Jacuzzi was one of the many Italians who had moved to the US in search of his own American Dream. One of his children suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which would leave him in loads of pain almost every day. Candido then put his Italian creativity at work to find a way to help his son and came out with the first hydro-massage tub.
Although computers and programming itself is duly attributed to a variety of inventors (often underestimated in their own way, like Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing), not many are aware that it was an Italian scientist, Federico Faggin, who was responsible in 1970 for the invention of the modern microchip.
Faggin moved to his native Vicenza to the USA, and in 1971 he was hired by Intel and put in charge of project Intel 4004, who gave the world the first working microprocessor. His invention was crucial to the progress of modern computer science, in that it led the way for the exponential reduction in the size of processors, which has allowed computers to evolve from towering machines that required entire rooms to themselves to pocket-sized or even thumb-sized devices that take seconds to perform tasks that would have required early computers weeks to carry out.
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