The Dutch are a smart, practical bunch and have been at the forefront of some pretty life changing inventions. There are some famous Dutch inventions that you probably already know about – the microscope, the telescope, pendulum clocks and of course, clogs. The Dutch were even in on the invention of wifi, without which you’d probably not be reading this right now. (Unless you have dial up. Does anyone still use that?!) However, there are some lesser known inventions that the Dutch have been proudly at the cutting edge of. Ingenious, original, ground breaking…..and well, quirky. Here at Stuff Dutch People Like we are delighted to share a few of these gems with you.
Without Cornelis Drebbel’s invention, Stromberg’s underwater Atlantis base in, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, would not have existed. Drebbel, a Dutch 17th century physicist, invented the first submarine – a big wooden structure, covered in greased leather, which used tubes to bring air underwater. Drebbel’s inventions were so unusual people thought he was a sorcerer. He designed and built his submarine in 1620, in England, and tested it in the Thames.
(Side note: On the subject of all things water, the Dutch also invented a curious 17th century rubber boat – complete with rubber boots! Used for fishing and hunting, it was inflatable and utterly fabulous. We have to wonder why it didn’t catch on? We’d totally float up the Keizersgracht in one of these!)
2. Folding emergency bridge
The Dutch Mr. Deth invented a very practical solution to crossing all those canals: an emergency bridge, which was foldable and could be transported on a handcart. Very practical in the Lowlands, especially if you couldn’t be bothered to walk to the nearest bridge (and you didn’t happen to have the inflatable-boat-with-boots in your cart).
3. Orange carrots
Did you know that the first carrots cultivated were white, purple or yellow? The orange carrot, that we know and love, came much later…..and yes, you guessed it – the Dutch were at the heart of this carroty invention! In the 17th century, the first orange carrot was grown and proved very popular with Dutch carrot farmers who started growing these fancy, new orange carrots as a tribute to William of Orange. (He led the fight for Dutch independence – kind of a big deal in Dutch history.) The fancy, new orange carrot was so popular that all other carrots were snubbed in a vegetable apartheid and the orange carrot reigned supreme!
4. The ‘Dutch door’
We are sure you’ve come across a stable door. You know the type that looks like it’s been sawn in half? Well guess, what? The Dutch invented it. You can open the top bit so light and air can get in, yet you can have the bottom bit closed to keep the animals out of your house, and your kids inside (unless you are having a bad parenting day and you might want to reverse that!) This type of door was common in the Netherlands in the 17th century and can still be seen in most country homes worldwide.
5. Mixed tapes
Hands up if you remember mixed tapes? (Oh, yes!!) Well, Koninklijke Philips N.V. (commonly known as Philips – the Dutch technology company) have been VERY busy in the inventing business. In fact, they brought us the cassette tape, the videotape, the CD and the CD-ROM. Before all you die-hard tech nerds out there shoot us down, some of these inventions were in conjunction with other countries, however the Dutch were there, once again, at the forefront of these inventions! We guess we have Philips to thank for the mixed tapes of our teenage years.
In the 16th century a Dutch Shipmaster decided to try his hand at making wine easier to transport. He heated the wine up, to concentrate it with the plan of eventually adding water to dilute it back to wine. However, he discovered that his concentrated wine was rather nice and called it ‘Burnt wine,’ (‘brandewijn’ in Dutch.) His friends all liked his potent new drink and it became the brandy we now pour into our coffees each morning. Or, wait, is that just us?
A Dutch man named Daniel Fahrenheit invented the alcohol and mercury thermometer, which is ironic really as the Dutch measure temperature in celsius. He was also the first to officially record the temperature at which water freezes and boils. So as you check your weather apps this week and dress accordingly, don’t forget to raise your woolly hat and mittens in memory of Mr Fahrenheit.
8. A bike treadmill
Dutch entrepreneur, Bruin Bergmeester invented a hybrid between a bike and a treadmill. He was inspired by his cross trainer and designed an electric bicycle powered by a small treadmill between its wheels. He called a lopifit and can it reach up to 25 km per hour. Watch the video, and tell us it doesn’t look like fun!
Written by SDPL contributor Rebekah Lawler