No, this is not about Germany’s bragging rights for their superior high-end automobiles and appliances! It’s about an array of innovations we might never have guessed originated in Germany.
Based on all the major inventions, discoveries and contributions for which the Germans are responsible, my first entry doesn’t begin to measure up, but I thought I’d start on a lighthearted note!
Spaghettieis (Spaghetti Ice) is a German ice cream dish made to look like a plate of spaghetti. In the dish, vanilla ice cream is extruded through a modified Spätzle press, giving it the appearance of spaghetti. It is then placed over whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce (to simulate tomato sauce) and either coconut flakes, grated almonds, or white chocolate shavings to represent the parmesan cheese. Besides the usual dish with strawberry sauce, one may also find variations like ice cream with dark chocolate ice cream and nuts, simulating Spaghetti Carbonara instead of Spaghetti Bolognese.
Spaghettieis was created by Dario Fontanella in the late 1960s in Mannheim, Germany. Fontanella recalls serving his innovative creation to children who broke into tears because they wanted ice cream and not a plate of spaghetti. He received the "Bloomaulorden", a medal bestowed by the city of Mannheim, in 2014.
For many years, the dish was not well known outside Germany, and could only be found at some gelaterias and specialty ice cream parlors, special events, and hotels and restaurants around the world. Recently, Spaghettieis has begun to appear as a novelty in more restaurants and has had some attention on social media.
By Photograph: Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2107979
Moving onto the More Important Contributions
Germans have made so many discoveries and inventions in the field of Medicine, Electronics, Astrology, Biology, Chemistry, Arts, Archaeology, Anatomy, Physics, Education, Mathematics….(literally every category you can think of) that I cannot do them justice. If you have a genuine interest in seeing ALL their contributions in every realm, click here! But trust me, it’s a VERY long list!!
Instead, I’m going to list things from our everyday lives (I can’t even pronounce most of the stuff in the areas of Chemistry and Biology!) Since this list is so long, I may occasionally just identify the invention/product without “the long description”.
Again, Germany is responsible for ALL of these. In a couple cases, other countries may have invented some version of it, but Germany contributed the OPERATIONAL version!
35mm Camera – 1913 Oskar Barnack built, what would later become the first commercially successful 35mm still-camera. Barnack was an engineer at the Leitz company and suffered from asthma, so he proposed reducing the size and weight of cameras in order to be able to take photographs in his travels. In 1924 the camera was named Leica, an anagram obtained from Leitz Camera. It was released at the Leipzig Fair in 1925
Believe it or not, there is a rare "museum quality" version of this camera being sold for $23,700!!! Lucky for my readers who might be interested, that they are offering FREE SHIPPING! :)
98.6 (Normal average body temperature) - A German physician named Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich was the first to crunch the 98.6 degrees number in 1851 after collecting millions of temperatures from about 2,500 patients in the city of Leipzig. "He took temperatures of everybody he could find, whether they were healthy … sick, and he wrote a large book on temperature variation with illness," said study senior researcher Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a professor of medicine and of health research and policy at Stanford University. Wunderlich's work also highlighted temperature variations between people of different sexes, ages, weights and heights.
The Accordion, Clarinet, Tuba, French Horn, Harmonica, Steinway Concert Grand Piano, and THE MICROPHONE!!!! Are you kidding me? Guess there would be no Orchestras without them!
Adhesive Tape - Pharmacist Oscar Troplowitz (same person who created Nivea!) set his mind to inventing something which was so profound it would certify his legacy. And he found it in sticky tape. While the idea had already been explored, it was Troplowitz's invention of leukoplast, an innovative adhesive patch, in 1901 which was the game changer.
The Advent Calendar AND The Advent Wreath!
The first All-Metal Aircraft – (1915) The Junkers J 1, nicknamed the Blechesel ("Tin Donkey" or "Sheet Metal Donkey"), was an experimental monoplane aircraft developed by Junkers & Co. It was the world's first all-metal aircraft.
Age 65 Retirement - Germany became the first nation in the world to adopt an old-age social (not private) insurance program in 1889, designed by Germany's Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck.
The Assault Rifle - The name “assault rifle” is believed to have been coined by Adolf Hitler. Toward the end of World War II, the story goes, Hitler hailed his army’s new wonder weapon by insisting that it be called not by the technical name given it by its developers, the Machinenpistole (the German name for a submachine gun), but rather something that made for better propaganda copy. A Sturmgewehr, he called the new gun: a “storm” or “assault” weapon.
The Automobile - While there’s speculation around who’s responsible for inventing the automobile, German engineer Karl Benz was the first to create what is the basis for today’s most popular mode of transportation. In 1885, Benz developed the first automobile powered by gasoline.
Bacteriology - In 1870, Robert Koch discovered bacteria after livestock throughout Europe was affected by a mysterious disease. Without Koch’s discovery, many of the world’s health problems may have continued. The Robert Koch Institute (where much of the worldwide COVID statistics are coming from) was named after him!
The Balance Beam
BASF tape & BASF tape recorder - Fritz Pfleumer's Magnetic tape recording as we know it today was developed in Germany during the 1930s at BASF (then part of the chemical giant IG Farben) and AEG in cooperation with the state radio RRG. This was based on Fritz Pfleumer's 1928 invention of paper tape with oxide powder lacquered to it.
Bayer Aspirin - Felix Hoffmann first created the pain-fighting formula to help his aligning father, and then later patented it in February of 1900.
Coincidentally, the same person invented Heroin, ....which was widely sold by Bayer and other companies to suppress cough, relieve pain of childbirth and serious war injuries, prepare patients for anesthesia, and control certain mental disorders. The addictiveness of heroin since recognized, it has been banned in most countries since the 1930’s.
Black Forest Cake
The Bicycle - In 1817, Baron Karl von Drais invented the Laufmaschine—German for “running machine”— the first commercially successful two-wheeled, human-propelled machine made from wood. The French would later add pedals to the contraption.
The Bunsen Burner (1855)
Buttons and Buttonholes
The Carabiner - One man’s palm-sized invention revolutionized the world of climbing and enabled us to safely explore mountains and valleys in a way that was never possible before. Just before World War I, climber Otto Herzog created a hefty carabiner weighing around 125 grams (4.4 oz). He wasn’t afraid to put his invention through its paces either; he’s famous in the climbing world for tackling some of the toughest climbs around, including one that broke Dülfer’s I-V difficulty scale.
The first Chainsaw in 1830 (although originally a medical tool for cutting bones!) Also, the first electric chainsaw (Stihl in 1926) and the first gas-powered chain saw (Stihl in 1927)
Chinese Checkers (1892)
The Christmas Tree AND The Easter Bunny!! - Finland may claim Santa Claus, but the Christmas tree belongs to Germany. Emerging during the German Renaissance, the "Tannenbaum" tradition began as a simple decorative expression of Christmas before going gangbusters in the late 19th century. While historically adorned with nuts, fruit and candles, today the once humble tree has become a kaleidoscopic symbol of one-upmanship between neighbors.
The Easter Bunny is a figure that originated in Germany in 1682. Traditionally, it was thought that the “Easter Hare” would judge whether children displayed good or bad behavior at the start of the spring season.
Cocaine for medicinal purposes - Cocaine was first isolated (extracted from coca leaves) in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. It was not until the 1880s that it started to be popularized in the medical community. Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who used the drug himself, was the first to broadly promote cocaine as a tonic to cure depression and sexual impotence. In 1884, he published an article entitled “Über Coca” (About Coke) which promoted the “benefits” of cocaine, calling it a “magical” substance.
Coffee Filter - In 1908 Dresden housewife Melitta Bentz seized her moment while pondering why her coffee was eternally so over-brewed and bitter. Realizing she could brew a more delicious cup by filtering out the loose grounds with an improvised paper filter, Bentz patented the idea and today the family company, Melitta Group KG, employs around 3,300 people.
The first Cruise Ship - Prinzessin Victoria Luise was a German passenger ship of the Hamburg-America Line (HAPAG) of some 4,409 gross register tons (GRT). She is credited with having been the first purpose-built cruise ship. Launched on 29 June 1900, she served with HAPAG until 16 December 1906 after being accidentally grounded off Jamaica.
Diesel Engine and Diesel Fuel (1888)
The first Driver’s License (1886)
Eau de Cologne - Johann Maria Farina (1685–1766), an Italian living in Cologne, Germany, created a fragrance and named it after his hometown.
Electric elevators - The first one was built by the German inventor Werner von Siemens in 1880. Black inventor, Alexander Miles patented an electric elevator (U.S. pat#371,207) on Oct. 11, 1887. Yes, there were elevators before 1880, but until the German’s created an electric elevator, elevators were run on steam.
Fanta- During World War II Americans thought they'd hit Germany where it hurt the most, by putting an embargo on Coca-Cola imports. Never one to bow to a challenge, Max Keith — the head of Coca-Cola in Germany — decided to invent a new product for the German market, using local ingredients, including pomace (the remains of fruit) and whey.
The first Flight Attendant - The German Heinrich Kubis was the world's first flight attendant, in 1912. Kubis first attended the passengers on board the DELAG Zeppelin LZ 10 Schwaben.
The first Freely Programmable Computer - The Z1 had a 64-word floating-point memory, where each word of memory could be read from – and written to – the control unit. The mechanical memory units were unique in their design and were patented by Konrad Zuse in 1936
The first Gas Station - The first filling station was the city pharmacy in Wiesloch, Germany, where Bertha Benz refilled the tank of the first automobile on its maiden trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim back in 1888. Also, the first “gas can”
The Geiger Counter
Glue Stick - In 1969 the German company Henkel invented the glue stick after studying the "twist-up ease" and convenience of lipstick applicators. The product was released under the Pritt Stick brand. By 1971 the Pritt Stick was being sold in 38 countries.
Grimm’s Fairytales (“the Brothers Grimm) - Despite the fact that Jacob and Wilhelm are often associated with Snow White and Rapunzel, the brothers didn’t actually write any of those stories. In fact, the stories existed long before the two men were born in Germany in the mid-1780s. The fairy tales, in fact, were part of a rich oral tradition − passed down from generation to generation, often by women seeking to pass the time during household chores. But as industrialization took root, local traditions changed and scholars, like Jacob and Wilhelm, began a quest to save the stories from extinction. They interviewed relatives and friends, collecting whatever tales they could, sometimes embellishing them (although they insisted they did not). In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm published the stories as part of a collection titled Nursery and Household Tales, or what is now referred to as Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Gummy Bears - After seeing trained bears at festivals across Germany, German entrepreneur Hans Riegel was inspired to create the deliciously sweet, chewy gummy bears in the early 1920’s. Riegel’s candy company, Haribo, continues to make gummy bears to this day.
Hamburgers (Trust me! You can find quite a few -specifically in America - who will argue this point, but this what what is most often found on its' creation.) Early incarnations of this dish were also known as “hamburg steak” or “hamburger steak,” with the name said to come from the city of Hamburg in northern Germany, known for its quality beef. Hamburg steak appeared on menus at German restaurants in New York City in the 1870s. After a German restaurant served the dish at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, it started appearing on menus at non-German restaurants, in cookbooks and in newspaper articles as far away as Chicago and North Dakota. Meat grinders became more popular after the fair as well, making the process of forming the patties more efficient.
The HANDHELD Electric Drill - While the electric drill was invented in Australia in 1889, it was the enterprising Wilhelm Emil Fein of Ludwigsburg who made it handheld and portable in 1895 — thus liberating the frontiers of masculinity forever.
Health Insurance (1883) - Under the rule of Otto Von Bismarck, Health Insurance Act is adopted. Beginning of the national social health insurance, which is considered to be the first in history. An estimated 5% to 10% of the total population is initially covered.
Hot Dogs (Frankfurters) (Frankfurt, Germany)
The Hole Punch
The Horizontal bar - also called high bar, gymnastics apparatus introduced in the early 19th century by the German Friedrich Jahn, usually considered the father of gymnastics.
Jägermeister - Like many herbal liqueurs, Jägermeister was originally used medicinally, and even today people swear by its healing properties for easing flu symptoms from cough to sore throats. One Wilhelm Mast founded a wine vinegar business in his home town of Wolfenbüttel, Lower Saxony, in 1878 – but it wasn't until 1934 that his son Curt took the business in a different direction, creating Jägermeister as we know it today.
Jeans - Levi Strauss, a German-American businessman, and Jacob Davis first patented jeans in 1873. Manufactured by Strauss’s company, dubbed Levi Strauss & Co., blue jeans were originally designed for cowboys and miners.
The first “practical” Jet Aircraft - The Heinkel He 178 was the world's first aircraft to fly under turbojet power, and the first practical jet aircraft. It was a private venture by the German Heinkel company in accordance with director Ernst Heinkel's emphasis on developing technology for high-speed flight. Kindergarten - Meaning “children’s garden” in German, this early education institution was first introduced by German pedagogy Friedrich Fröbel in 1837. Fröbel’s notion was that young children’s minds should be nurtured and nourished like plants in a garden.
MP3 - was once little more than a pie-in-the-sky idea until tech whiz Karlheinz Brandenburg had his eureka moment in the early 1980s. The MP3 — or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III — was a revolution in audio. It allowed files to be coded and compressed, and thus stored, played and transferred with ease — as file-sharing sites like Napster rapidly discovered.
The first Magazine - The earliest magazine appears to have been the German Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen (1663–68; “Edifying Monthly Discussions”), started by Johann Rist, a theologian and poet of Hamburg.
Mayonnaise - While the French chef of Duke de Richelieu first created mayonnaise in 1756, it was German immigrant Richard Hellmann who brought the classic deli condiment to the masses in 1905. Hellmann later went on to start the popular mayonnaise empire, Hellmann’s.
The Mirror - The silvered-glass mirrors found throughout the world today first got their start in Germany almost 200 years ago. In 1835, German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass.
Modern Football Cleats -While the prototype football cleat was invented in Britain, it was Adidas founder Adolf "Adi" Dassler who invented the modern boot with the game-changing screw-in stud technology in 1954, no doubt aiding a West German victory in the World Cup that same year. Older brother Rudolf Dassler of rival Puma wasn't amused, as he also claimed the innovation.
The first Motorcycle - The first internal combustion, petroleum fueled motorcycle was the Daimler Reitwagen. It was designed and built by the German inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Bad Cannstatt, Germany in 1885.
The first Motorboat - The earliest boat to be powered by a petrol engine was tested on the Neckar River by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1886, when they tested their new "longcase clock" engine. It had been constructed in the former greenhouse (converted into a workshop) in Daimler's back yard.
Permanent Wave Solution and the Permanent Wave Machine
Pilates – It was developed by Joseph Pilates, from Mönchengladbach, Germany. His father was a gymnast and his mother a naturopath. During the first half of the twentieth century, he developed a system of exercises which were intended to strengthen the human mind and body.
The Pregnancy Test - The first true precursor to today’s pregnancy test was developed in 1927, when the German scientists Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondek discovered that injecting a pregnant woman’s urine into a mouse or rat would send it into heat, which could be ascertained only by dissecting the animal. Over the next few decades, the AZ test, named after its creators, replaced rodents with rabbits—the phrase “the rabbit died” was, at one point, a euphemism for a positive pregnancy test—and then frogs (so many frogs were exported from southern Africa to the U.S. for pregnancy tests, in fact, that some scientists believe they may be the source of a fungal disease currently threatening the country’s amphibian population). In the 1960s, scientists ditched the animals entirely, turning instead to immunoassays, or tests that combined hCG, hCG antibodies, and urine—if a woman was pregnant, the mixture would clump together in certain distinctive ways.
The first Pocket Watch
The Printing Press - While Chinese monks are cited as creating the first concept of the printing press, it was German inventor and blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg who introduced printing to Europe. Gutenberg’s “movable type printing” technology enabled the mass production of books.
The Richter Scale
The First Self-Propelled Wheelchair - was invented in 1655 by paraplegic clockmaker of Nuremberg, Germany Stephan Farfler, who built his own mobility aid when he was only 22 after having broken his back as a child
"SIM Cards – The first SIM card was developed in 1991 by Munich smart-card maker, who sold the first 300 SIM cards to the Finnish wireless network operator, Today, SIM cards are ubiquitous, allowing over 7 billion devices to connect to cellular networks around the world."
SIM Cards – The first SIM card was developed in 1991 by Munich smart-card maker Giesecke & Devrient, who sold the first 300 SIM cards to the Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja. Today, SIM cards are ubiquitous, allowing over 7 billion devices to connect to cellular networks around the world.
Spark Plugs - Robert Bosch, inventor of the spark plug. The spark of automotive genius begins one cold December day late in 1901, in a small German factory that employs a few dedicated, yet unknown, workers.
Taximeter - It's equally loved and loathed and has made for many an anxious dash across town. Invented by Friedrich Wilhelm Gustav Bruhn in Berlin in 1891 for industrialist and motorcar pioneer Gottlieb Daimler, the taximeter has been heightening blood pressures ever since.
First Video Game Console - Ralph Baer, a German immigrant and inventor, created the very first home video game console in the late '60s. It was simply called the "Brown Box," and it later came to be known as the Magnavox Odyssey in 1972 after he licensed out the design.
The Wankle Engine (1929)
X-Rays - Discovered by German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895, the x-ray is popularly used throughout the medical community. Röntgen actually invented the x-ray by accident while experimenting with electrical current through glass cathode-ray tubes.
Whew! I’m exhausted just from doing the research! And trust me when I say I haven’t even scratched the surface!
Obviously many other countries have equally as many significant (or maybe insignificant) discoveries and innovations as Germany, but Germany is the country I’m living in right now –so it’s the country I’m focusing on …..until such time as I’m living in another country 😊
If you want to read an interesting article from The Harvard Business Review that does explore the differences between Germany and U.S. Innovations, read this: Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation