Truly Swiss talent: converting crazy ideas into practical tools with catchy names. These are just two examples of Swiss ingenuity. Chemists and scientists from all walks of life have used their Swiss pragmatism over and over again to turn out inventions that have changed the world forever.
- The zip
The original ‘pre-zip’ was patented in the US in 1851. It required two corresponding rows of hooks to be lined up in order for them to be fastened with a pull. In 1923, Martin Winterhalter was approached by an American who held the patent on the latest version of the ‘pre-zip’. Winterhalter saw room for improvement, acquiring the patent, investing 10,000 francs. By 1925, he had perfected the technology.
Nestlé began developing a coffee brand in 1930, at the initiative of the Brazilian government, to help to preserve the substantial surplus of the annual Brazilian coffee harvest. After five years of failed attempts at preserving the true coffee taste in the form of powder, Nestlé pulled the plug on the experiment.
However, a staff chemist secretly kept trying different methods in his own time and at his own expense in his own kitchen near Vevey, Switzerland. In 1936, Max Morgenthaler presented a winning formula to Nestlé.
Velcro® was invented, patented and registered in Switzerland. A Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral when hunting in the Jura mountains, one day noticed that certain seeds were attaching themselves to his clothes, and they were hard in to impossible to remove. He managed to replicate this ‘hook and loop’ fastening method in an invention. He named it velcro, from the French velour and crochet (velvet and hook). Although he marketed it as a ‘zipperless zipper’
in the 1950s, it took an organization like NASA to finally hook the world: in 1969, astronauts used Velcro® to secure things inside the Apollo spaceship.
4. The World Wide Web –
Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989 while he was working at CERN. Inspired by CERN’s own shared network, but frustrated that each computer-stored information with a different login, Berners-Lee created his own version. The first website in the world was based at CERN, on Berners-Lee’s own computer, hosting information about how the web worked.
5. Aluminum foil
The first patent for aluminum foil was taken out by Swiss businessman Heinrich Alfred Gautschi in 1905 but it wasn’t until 1910 when the firm of Dr. Lauber, Neher & Cie began production of the material in long rolls in the town of Emmishofen that the material really began to gain in popularity. Within a couple of years, it was being used to wrap Toblerone chocolate bars and Maggi stock cubes. The rest is history.
This famous breakfast was created by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients at his sanatorium in Zurich. His original version was meant to have much more fruit and be eaten with orange juice rather than today’s grain-heavy boxed mixes served with milk. During the healthy-body craze of the 1970s, muesli became a worldwide sensation.
7. Cellophane –
For Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger, it was the wine pouring out of the glass that sparked the imagination.
Inspired by seeing wine spill onto a tablecloth, he decided to invent a material that could repel liquids rather than absorb them.
He dedicated 12 years to perfecting its construction and consistency and manufactured a machine to produce the film. He named it cellophane, from cellulose and diaphane (French for transparent), and gave us a brand new, hygienic way of sealing leftovers for tomorrow.
8. The vegetable peeler
It’s was invented and patented by Alfred Neweczerzal in 1947.
The story begins when he came up with discovery after getting tired of peeling potatoes in the army. Its design has truly given the world a culinary revolution.
Designed with only one piece of aluminum, the original Rex was quickly manufactured, cheap to buy, high quality and easy to use.
Another legend says the family asked his grandson to replace Rex’s blades after 6 years of use. To this day his grandson continues to produce the same pattern.
9. Helvetica font
Developed in 1957 by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, the classic Helvetica and its many variations are favorites for their crisp, san-serif letters to deliver communication in a clean style. Not many typefaces get their own exhibits in art museums, but New York’s Museum Of Modern Art celebrated the font with a 50 Years Of Helvetica exhibit in 2007.
The aniseed-flavored spirit absinthe originated in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. The Green Fairy, or Green Muse, went on to become all the rage in fashionable watering holes across Europe until it was eventually banned in several countries due to its addictive nature and attendant antisocial behavior for which the drink was blamed. Absinthe, which has a very high alcohol content but is usually mixed with water, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.
The former University of Zurich student Albert Hofmann it’s the cause for the creation of another mind-altering substance, lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD (or simply, acid) while at work in a laboratory at Sandoz, now part of Novartis, in 1938—though it is Bicycle Day (19 April 1943) that is celebrated annually as the day the good doctor first experimented with LSD on a human patient, that being himself. See the video below for an idea of how that experiment played out.
12. Swiss Army Knife
Invented by Karl Elsener and named after his mother Victoria, the Victorinox (Victoria plus inox, a shortened form of the French word for stainless steel, inoxydable) Swiss Officers’ Knife has evolved from its creation in the 1890s as a simple knife to include a panoply of features from the basic corkscrew to very contemporary additions like LED lights and USB drives.