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5 important Polish inventions Posted by on Nov 3, 2012 in Famous people, History, Investments, Science

Poland is a country known for many distinguished individuals like John Paul II, Lech Wałęsa, Frederic Chopin, Marie Curie, Joseph Conrad or Nicolaus Copernicus. But can you name some commonly known and used inventions that would be devised by Poles? Can’t do it? Exactly! Poland is generally associated with things like great beer, beautiful women and kiełbasa, but it seems that throughout the ages it hasn’t bred any significant inventors. This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. I will prove you that Poles have in fact created things that I bet you have heard of, or maybe even used. So, there we go:

1. Bulletproof vest

Yes, you read that right. The bulletproof vest was in fact created by a Polish inventor called Jan Szczepanik in 1901. The vest was made of multiple layers of silk that were specifically woven so that they could stop bullets. The invention turned out be quite successful and the cloth used in the vest passed the practical test when it prevented the assasination of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII. In 1906 in Paris, he was travelling in a carriage padded with Szczepanik’s special silk when suddenly a bomb exploded. Thanks to the bulletproof material, the king was unharmed and Szczepanik gained himself quite a fame. Everybody should agree that his acclaim was well-earned, right?

2. Melex (golf cart)

Everybody knows these little cars, since they are a common view on every golf field. What most people are unaware of, however, is that all the golfers should be extremely thankful to a small company from a Polish town Mielec. It was established in 1971 and dedicated solely to producing small, electric vehicles that the golfers found very convienient to move around with, so that they wouldn’t have to carry their have bags on their shoulders. At first the USA were the company’s main outlet, but later on the carts started to sell like hot cakes everywhere else and, obviously, they are still very popular today.

3. Mine detector

It’s an invention that helped the British Army win the battle of El-Alamain during World War II and was used during the Invasion of Normandy, so the significance of the devise is pretty clear. It was developped by two Polish lieutenants – Józef Kosacki and Andrzej Garboś at the end of year 1941. It seems that they were very humble men, since they never patented their invention, but instead gave it as a gift to the British Army. It was in common use until 1995. Talk about a nice present!

4. Movie projector

The first thought upon reading this might be: „Who are you trying to fool? Everybody knows that it’s the Lumière brothers that invented the movie projector”. Well, nobody is going to deny that. The thing is that a year before the Lumières patented their invention, a Polish inventor called Kazimierz Prószyński finished working on his so-called pleograph, which basically worked the same way as its French successor. So why didn’t Prószyński get international acclaim for his devise? Nobody knows, really. Being in fact the first person to ever build a machine able to project images, he should be on the pages of every history book. Especially considering the fact that he also constructed the first ever hand-held camera, which he called an aeroscope.

5. Paraffin lamp

Well, maybe this one isn’t still used as commonly as, say, bulletproof vest, but in its time it was a real breakthrough for science. Earlier, having a lamp in the house was a quite tiring exprecience, since the oil used as fuel wasn’t very efficient. Then, in 1853, Ignacy Łukasiewicz found a way to distill a substance called kserone (or parrafin) from seep oil. The paraffin lamp was soon found in any household. Łukasiewicz also introduced first modern street lamps in Europe and created first oil refinery. And it’s pretty obvious that oil refineries are quite significant nowadays.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

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About the Author:Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew up in Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Lorene Wedeking:

    Ah, in Tarnow I found an exhibit showing color photography is also a Polish invention.

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