text by: Natalia Semczuk
Can you imagine driving a car without a wiper on a rainy day? Or a policeman without a bullet-proof vest intervening during shooting? A golf course without golf carts? Large corporations not equipped with paper clips? All these things were invented by Poles to facilitate the everyday life of their compatriots. But soon, they also went international.
Jan Szczepanik, born in the Austrian Partition, is known for numerous works concerning the photographic techniques. His inventions include the system of taking colour pictures using 3 lens camera, which allowed to take separate pictures of an object in different colours. The pictures were recorded on the monochrome film. He also devised coloured film which was, almost 30 years later, improved and used by Kodak. Jan Szczepanik also worked on photometer and colorimeter, devices essential for the present-day photography.
The Institute of High Pressure Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences is an institution of a rich history. In 2001, its staff succeeded in creating high quality gallium nitride crystals, which are used in blue lasers. This technology was improved by the Japanese and is now used in Blu-ray optical drive.
Production of graphene
Although the age of graphene has not yet come, Poles keep abreast of what is happening on the grounds of a development of the technology based on this material. The important milestone is the technique of mass and, what is the most important, cheap grapheme production devised by the team led by D.Sc. Włodzimierz Strupiński from the Institute of Electronic Materials Technology (ITME) in 2011.
Aeroscope and pleograph
Lumiere brothers are said to be the inventors of cinematograph but even they admitted that the true pioneer in this field was Kazimierz Prószyński. He was the one to construct aeroscope, a portable automatic camera, which used compressed air to move the film while recording. 14 years earlier, in 1894, Kazimierz Prószyński constructed pleograph, a type of camera which allows to record an image on a celluloid film and display it. This took place before Lumiere brothers registered their patent in 1895.
K-202, a minicomputer
In the late 60s and beginning of the 70s of the last century, when the most advanced computers able to use 64 kB of memory, a Polish engineer Jacek Karpiński constructed K-202. This 16-bit computer was created with a help of UK institutions, but its concept originated in Poland. It was one of the first computers which used the paging technique. Despite the fact that K-202 was a 16-bit computer, paging theoretically allowed to use as much as 8 MB of memory. Like many Polish inventions of this kind, K-202 did not fit into the ideology of the ruling party. Jacek Karpiński was a visionary in many other fields, he also worked on artificial intelligence.
The list of Polish inventions seems to be endless. It includes a mine detector, a hologram, a lunar rover for the Apollo mission, a cyclometer, railroad ties made of reinforced concrete, fluorescent lamps, delta wing, three-player chess, walkie-talkie, and a helicopter – designed by Leonardo da Vinci, but constructed by Adam Ostaszewski. These examples support the famous saying “Polak potrafi” (a Pole can do it), and we, as Poles, can boast of it.