List of Dutch inventions and discoveries

List of Dutch inventions and discoveries
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The Dutch people have a history and tradition in inventing and discovery. Dutch scientists and engineers have made a remarkable contribution to human progress as a whole, from something as simple as the sawmill to microbiology and artificial organs.



1569 Mercator projection

The standard map projection for nautical purposes that supports rhumb lines.

1585 (est.) Yacht

Originally defined as a light, fast sailing vessel used by the Dutch navy to pursue pirates and other transgressors around and into the shallow waters of the Low Countries. Later, yachts came to be perceived as luxury, or recreational vessels.

1590 Microscope

In 1590 the Dutchmen Hans and Zacharias Janssen (Father and son) invented the first compound microscope. It would have a single glass lens of short focal length for the objective, and another single glass lens for the eyepiece or ocular. A resident of Delft, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, effectively launched high-power microscopy using single-lens, simple microscopes. With these modest instruments he discovered the world of micro-organisms. Modern microscopes are far more complex, with multiple lens components in both objective and eyepiece assemblies. These multi-component lenses are designed to reduce aberrations, particularly chromatic aberration and spherical aberration. In modern microscopes the mirror is replaced by a lamp unit providing stable, controllable illumination.

1594 Wind powered sawmill

Cornelis Corneliszoon (Born 1550 in Uitgeest - died 1600) was the inventor of the wind powered sawmill. Prior to the invention of sawmills, boards were rived and planed, or more often sawn by two men with a whipsaw using saddleblocks to hold the log and a pit for the pitman who worked below and got the benefit of the sawdust in his eyes. Sawing was slow and required strong and enduring men. The topsawer had to be the stronger of the two because the saw was pulled in turn by each man, and the lower had the advantage of gravity. The topsawyer also had to guide the saw so the board was of even thickness. This was often done by following a chalkline.

Early sawmills simply adapted the whipsaw to mechanical power, generally driven by a water wheel to speed up the process. The circular motion of the wheel was changed to back-and-forth motion of the saw blade by a pitman thus introducing a term used in many mechanical applications. A pitman is similar to a crankshaft but used in reverse. A crankshaft converts back-and-forth motion to circular motion.

Generally only the saw was powered and the logs had to be loaded and moved by hand. An early improvement was the development of a movable carriage, also water powered, to steadily move the log through the saw blade.

1602 Multinational corporation

The Dutch East India Company was the first multinational corporation and the first megacorporation. It was also the first corporation to issue shares of stock and bonds.

1606 Stock market

The Amsterdam Stock Exchange was the first of its kind and it traded the first shares of stock (from the Dutch East India Company). Here, the Dutch also pioneered stock futures, stock options, short selling, debt-equity swaps, merchant banking, bonds, unit trusts and other speculative instruments. Also, a speculative bubble that crashed in 1695, and a change in fashion that unfolded and reverted in time with the market.

1608 Telescope

Hans Lippershey

Hans Lippershey created and disseminated the first practical telescope. Crude telescopes and spyglasses may have been created much earlier, but Lippershey is believed to be the first to apply for a patent for his design (beating out Jacob Metius by a few weeks) and make it available for general use in 1608. He failed to receive a patent but was handsomely rewarded by the Dutch government for copies of his design. A description of Lippershey's instrument quickly reached Galileo Galilei, who created a working design in 1609, with which he made the observations found in his Sidereus Nuncius of 1610.

There is a legend that Lippershey's children actually discovered the telescope while playing with flawed lenses in their father's workshop, but this may be apocryphal.

Lippershey crater, on the Moon, is named after him.[1]

1620 Submarine

Cornelius Drebbel, was the inventor of the first navigable submarine, while working for the Royal Navy. Using William Bourne's design from 1578, he manufactured a steerable submarine with a leather-covered wooden frame. Between 1620 and 1624 Drebbel successfully built and tested two more submarines, each one bigger than the last. The final (third) model had 6 oars and could carry 16 passengers. This model was demonstrated to King James I in person and several thousand Londoners. The submarine stayed submerged for three hours and could travel from Westminster to Greenwich and back, cruising at a depth of from 12 to 15 feet (4 to 5 metres). This submarine was tested many times in the Thames, but never used in combat

1656 Pendulum clock

A pendulum clock uses a pendulum as its time base. From their invention until about 1930, the most accurate clocks were pendulum clocks. Pendulum clocks cannot operate on vehicles, because the accelerations of the vehicle drive the pendulum, causing inaccuracies. See marine chronometer for a discussion of the problems of navigational clocks.The pendulum clock was invented by Christian Huygens in 1656, based on the pendulum introduced by Galileo Galilei.

Pendulum clocks remained the mechanism of choice for accurate timekeeping for centuries, with the Fedchenko observatory clocks produced from after World War II up to around 1960 marking the end of the pendulum era as time standards considered. Pendulum clocks remain popular for domestic, decorative and antique use.

1673 Fire hose

In Holland, the Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, Jan van der Heyden, and his son Nicholaas took firefighting to its next step with the fashioning of the first Fire hose in 1673.

1739 Pyrometer

The pyrometer, invented by Pieter van Musschenbroek, is a temperature measuring device, which may consist of several different arrangements. A simple type of pyrometer uses a thermocouple placed either in the furnace or on the item to be measured. The voltage output of the thermocouple is read from a digital or analog meter calibrated in degrees Celsius (C) or Fahrenheit (F). There are many different types of thermocouple available, and these can be used to measure temperatures from -200 °C to above 1500 °C.[2]

1746 Leyden jar

Leyden jars, Museum Boerhaave, Leiden [1]

The Leyden jar was the original capacitor, developed by Pieter van Musschenbroek in the 18th century and used to conduct many early experiments in electricity.

The device was a glass jar coated inside and out with metal. The inner coating was connected to a rod that passed through the lid and ended in a metal ball. Typical designs consist of an electrode and a plate, each of which stores an opposite charge. These two elements are conductive and are separated by an insulator (e.g., the glass dielectric). The charge is stored at the surface of the elements, at the boundary with the dielectric.

1860 Kipp's apparatus

Kipp's apparatus, also called Kipp generator, is an apparatus designed for preparation of small volumes of gases. It was invented around 1860 by the Dutch pharmacist Petrus Jacobus Kipp and widely used in chemical laboratories and for demonstrations in schools into the second half of the 20th century.

1903 Electrocardiograph (ECG)

ECG as done by Willem Einthoven

In the 19th century it became clear that the heart generated electricity. The first to systematically approach the heart from an electrical point-of-view was Augustus Waller, working in St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. In 1911 he still saw little clinical application for his work. The breakthrough came when Willem Einthoven, working in Leiden, The Netherlands, used the string galvanometer invented by him in 1901, which was much more sensitive than the capillary electrometer that Waller used. Einthoven assigned the letters P, Q, R, S and T to the various deflections, and described the electrocardiographic features of a number of cardiovascular disorders. He was awarded the 1924 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery.

1903 Four-wheel drive with internal combustion engine

In 1903, the Dutch car manufacturer Spyker introduces the first four-wheel drive car, as well as hill-climb racer, with internal combustion engine, the Spyker 60 H.P..

1926 Pentode

A pentode is an electronic device having five active electrodes. The term most commonly applies to a three-grid vacuum tube (thermionic valve), which was invented by the Dutchman Bernhard D.H. Tellegen in 1926.

1933 Phase contrast microscope

As light travels through a medium other than vacuum, interaction with this medium causes its amplitude and phase to change in a way which depends on properties of the medium. Changes in amplitude give rise to familiar absorption of light which gives rise to colors when it is wavelength dependent. The human eye measures only the energy of light arriving on the retina, so changes in phase are not easily observed, yet often these changes in phase carry a large amount of information.

The same holds in a typical microscope, i.e., although the phase variations introduced by the sample are preserved by the instrument (at least in the limit of the perfect imaging instrument) this information is lost in the process which measures the light. In order to make phase variations observable, it is necessary to combine the light passing through the sample with a reference so that the resulting interference reveals the phase structure of the sample.

This was first realized by Frits Zernike during his study of diffraction gratings. During these studies he appreciated both that it is necessary to interfere with a reference beam, and that to maximise the contrast achieved with the technique, it is necessary to introduce a phase shift to this reference so that the no-phase-change condition gives rise to completely destructive interference.

He later realized that the same technique can be applied to optical microscopy. The necessary phase shift is introduced by rings etched accurately onto glass plates so that they introduce the required phase shift when inserted into the optical path of the microscope. When in use, this technique allows phase of the light passing through the object under study to be inferred from the intensity of the image produced by the microscope. This is the phase-contrast technique.

In optical microscopy many objects such as cell parts in protozoans, bacteria and sperm tails are essentially fully transparent unless stained (and therefore killed). The difference in densities and composition within these objects however often give rise to changes in the phase of light passing through them, hence they are sometimes called "phase objects". Using the phase-contrast technique makes these structures visible and allows their study with the specimen still alive.

This phase contrast technique proved to be such an advancement in microscopy that Zernike was awarded the Nobel prize (physics) in 1953.

1939 Submarine snorkel

A submarine snorkel is a device that allows a submarine to operate submerged while still taking in air from above the surface. It was invented by the Dutchman J.J.Wichers shortly before World War II and copied by the Germans during the war for use by U-Boats. Its common military name is snort.

1939 Philishave

Philishave was the brand name for the electric shavers manufactured by the Philips Domestic Appliances and Personal Care unit of Philips (in the U.S.A., the Norelco name is used instead). The Philishave shaver was invented by Philips engineer Alexandre Horowitz, who used rotating cutters instead of the reciprocating cutters that had been used in previous electric shavers.

1943 Artificial kidney (Hemodialysis)

An artificial kidney is the machine and its related devices which allow to clean the blood of patients who have a temporary (acute) or an ongoing (chronic) failure of their kidneys. The first artificial kidney was developed by Willem Johan Kolff. The procedure of cleaning the blood by this means is called dialysis, a type of renal replacement therapy which is used to provide an artificial replacement for lost kidney function due to renal failure. It is a life support treatment and does not treat any kidney diseases.

1948 Gyrator

A gyrator is a passive, linear, lossless, two-port electrical network element invented in 1948 by Dutchman Bernard D. H. Tellegen as a hypothetical fifth linear element after the resistor, capacitor, inductor and ideal transformer.

1958 Traffic enforcement camera

Gatso speed camera

Dutch company Gatsometer BV, founded by the 1950s rally driver Maurice Gatsonides, invented the first traffic enforcement camera. Gatsonides wished to better monitor his speed around the corners of a race track and came up with the device in order to improve his time around the circuit [2]. The company developed the first radar for use with road traffic, and is the world's largest supplier of speed camera systems. Because of this, in some countries speed cameras are sometimes referred to as "Gatsos". They are also sometimes referred to as "photo radar", even though many of them do not use radar.

The first systems introduced in the late 1960s used film cameras to take their pictures. From the late 1990s, digital cameras began to be introduced. Digital cameras can be fitted with a modem or other electronic interface to transfer images to a central processing location automatically, so they have advantages over film cameras in speed of issuing fines, and operational monitoring. However, film-based systems still generally provide superior image quality in the variety of lighting conditions encountered on roads, and in some jurisdictions are required by the courts due to the ease with which digital images may be modified. New film-based systems are still being sold.

1962 Compact Cassette

Compact Cassette

In 1962 Philips invented the compact audio cassette medium for audio storage, introducing it in Europe in August 1963 (at the Berlin Radio Show) and in the United States (under the Norelco brand) in November 1964, with the trademark name Compact Cassette.

1969 Laserdisc

Laserdisc technology, using a transparent disc,[3] was invented by David Paul Gregg in 1958 (and patented in 1961 and 1990).[4][5] By 1969, Philips had developed a videodisc in reflective mode, which has great advantages over the transparent mode. MCA and Philips decided to join their efforts. They first publicly demonstrated the videodisc in 1972. Laserdisc was first available on the market, in Atlanta, on December 15, 1978, two years after the VHS VCR and four years before the CD, which is based on Laserdisc technology. Philips produced the players and MCA the discs.

1979 Compact disc

Compact Disc

The compact disc was jointly developed by Philips (Joop Sinjou) and Sony (Toshitada Doi). In the early 1970s, Philips' researchers started experiments with "audio-only" optical discs, and at the end of the 1970s, Philips, Sony, and other companies presented prototypes of digital audio discs. Philips publicly demonstrated a prototype of an optical digital audio disc at a press conference titled "Philips Introduce Compact Disc" in Eindhoven, The Netherlands on March 8, 1979.


1594 Orange Islands

During his first journey in 1594, Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz discovered the Orange Islands.

1596 Bear Island

On 10 June 1596, Dutch explorers Willem Barentsz and Jacob van Heemskerk discovered Bear Island, a week before their discovery of Spitsbergen.

1596 Spitsbergen

On 17 June 1596, Dutch explorers Willem Barentsz and Jacob van Heemskerk discovered Spitsbergen while searching for the Northern Sea Route.

1597 Novaya Zemlya effect

The first person to record the phenomenon was Gerrit de Veer, a member of Willem Barentsz' ill-fated third expedition into the polar region. Novaya Zemlya, the archipelago where de Veer first observed the phenomenon, lends its name to the effect.

1600 Falkland Islands

The first reliable sighting is usually attributed to the Dutch explorer Sebald de Weert in 1600, who named the archipelago the Sebald Islands, a name they bore on Dutch maps into the 19th century.

1606 Australia

Hollandia Nova, 1659 map prepared by Joan Blaeu based on voyages by Abel Tasman and Willem Jansz, this image shows a French edition of 1663

The first undisputed sighting of Australia by a European was made on 26 February 1606. The Dutch vessel Duyfken, captained by Willem Janszoon, followed the coast of New Guinea, missed Torres Strait, and explored perhaps 350 km of western side of Cape York, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, believing the land was still part of New Guinea. The Dutch made one landing, but were promptly attacked by Aborigines and subsequently abandoned further exploration.[6]

1614 Jan Mayen

After unconfirmed reports of Dutch discovery as early as 1611, the island was named after Dutchman Jan Jacobszoon May van Schellinkhout who visited the island in July 1614. As locations of these islands were kept secret by the whalers, Jan Mayen only got its current name in 1620.

1614 Long Island Sound

The first European to record the existence of Long Island Sound was the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, who entered the sound from the East River in 1614.

1614 Connecticut River

The first European to see the Connecticut River was the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block in 1614.

1615 Staten Island

On 25 December 1615, Dutch explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten aboard the Eendracht, discovered Staten Island, close to Cape Horn.

1616 Cape Horn

On 29 January, 1616, the Dutch ship Eendracht with explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten sighted land they called Cape Horn, after the city of Hoorn in Holland. Aboard the Eendracht was the crew of the recently wrecked ship called Hoorn.

1616 Tonga

The Dutch ship Eendracht with explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten discovered Tonga on 21 April 1616.

1616 Hoorn Islands

The Dutch ship Eendracht with explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten discovered the Hoorn Islands on 28 April 1616.

1616 New Ireland (island)

The Dutch ship Eendracht with explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten discovered the New Ireland around May-July 1616.

1616 Schouten Islands

The Dutch ship Eendracht with explorers Jacob le Maire and Willem Schouten discovered the Schouten Islands on 24 July 1616.

1624 Hermite Islands

In February 1624, Dutch admiral Jacques l'Hermite discovered the Hermite Islands at Cape Horn.

1642 Tasmania

In 1642, Abel Tasman sailed from Mauritius and on 24 November, sighted Tasmania. He named Tasmania Van Diemen's Land, after Anthony van Diemen, the Dutch East India Company's Governor General at Batavia, who had commissioned his voyage. Tasman claimed Van Diemen's Land for the Netherlands.

1642 New Zealand

In 1642, during the same expedition, Tasman discovered New Zealand.

1643 Fiji

In 1643, still during the same expedition, Tasman discovered Fiji.

1643 Sakhalin

The first European known to visit Sakhalin was Martin Gerritz de Vries, who mapped Cape Patience and Cape Aniva on the island's east coast in 1643.

1643 Kuril Islands

In the summer of 1643, the Castricum, under command of Maarten Gerritsz Vries sailed by the southern Kuril Islands, visiting Kunashir, Iturup, and Urup, which they named "Company Island" and claimed for the Netherlands.

1655 Rings of Saturn

In 1655, Christiaan Huygens became the first person to suggest that Saturn was surrounded by a ring, after Galileo's much less advanced telescope had failed to show rings. Galileo had reported the anomaly as possibly 3 planets instead of one.

1674 Infusoria

Infusoria is a collective term for minute aquatic creatures like ciliate, euglena, paramecium, protozoa and unicellular algae that exist in freshwater pond water. However, in formal classification microorganism called infusoria belongs to Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Protozoa, Class Ciliates (Infusoria).They were first discovered by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek.

1676 Bacteria

The first bacteria were observed by Anton van Leeuwenhoek in 1676 using a single-lens microscope of his own design. The creatures he saw were described as small creatures. The name bacterium was introduced much later, by Ehrenberg in 1828, derived from the Greek word βακτηριον meaning "small stick". Because of the difficulty in describing individual bacteria and the importance of their discovery to fields such as medicine, biochemistry and geochemistry, the history of bacteria is generally described as the history of microbiology.

1677 Spermatozoa

A spermatozoon or spermatozoon (pl. spermatozoa), from the ancient Greek σπερμα (seed) and ζων (alive) and more commonly known as a sperm cell, is the haploid cell that is the male gamete. It joins an ovum to form a zygote. A zygote can grow into a new organism, such as a human being. Sperm cells contribute half of the genetic information to the diploid offspring. In mammals, the sex of the offspring is determined by the sperm cells: a spermatozoon bearing a Y chromosome will lead to a male (XY) offspring, while one bearing an X chromosome will lead to a female (XX) offspring ( the ovum always provides an X chromosome). Sperm cells were first observed by a student of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek in 1677. Leeuwenhoek pictured sperm cells with great accuracy.

1722 Easter Island

On Easter Sunday, 5 April 1722, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discovered Easter Island.

1722 Samoa

On 13 June 1722, after his discovery of Easter Island, Jacob Roggeveen discovered the Samoa islands.

1779 Orange River

The Orange River was named by Colonel Robert Gordon, commander of the Dutch East India Company garrison at Cape Town, on a trip to the interior in 1779.

1779 Plant respiration and photosynthesis

Leaf. The primary site of photosynthesis in plants.

Photosynthesis and plant respiration is an important biochemical process in which plants, algae, and some bacteria convert the energy of sunlight to chemical energy. The process was discovered by Jan Ingenhousz in 1779. The chemical energy is used to drive synthetic reactions such as the formation of sugars or the fixation of nitrogen into amino acids, the building blocks for protein synthesis. Ultimately, nearly all living things depend on energy produced from photosynthesis for their nourishment, making it vital to life on Earth. It is also responsible for producing the oxygen that makes up a large portion of the Earth's atmosphere. Organisms that produce energy through photosynthesis are called photoautotrophs. Plants are the most visible representatives of photoautotrophs, but bacteria and algae also contribute to the conversion of free energy into usable energy.


  1. ^ Blue, Jennifer (July 25, 2007). "Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature". USGS. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  2. ^ Hebert, Luke (Januari 1, 1839). ": Engineer's And Mechanic's Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  3. ^ U.S. Patent 3,430,966 Transparent recording disc, 1969.
  4. ^ U.S. Patent 3,530,258 Video signal transducer, 1970.
  5. ^ U.S. Patent 4,893,297 Disc-shaped member, 1990.
  6. ^ Raymond John Howgego: Encyclopedia of Exploration to 1800, 2003. Potts Point NSW: Hordern House. ISBN 1-875567-36-4.

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