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Saturday, March 29, 2014

We invented more than just the saxofone

Perhaps you don't know it, but we Belgians have invented more than one thing. The best-known is of course the saxofone, named after Adophe Saxe.

A radio 1 program 'De bende van Einstein' (= the Einstein gang) asked their listeners to list those Belgian inventions which they thought the most remarkable. Here are some of the results:

1) the roller skate, invented by John Joseph Merlin who was born in Hoei. He put wheels under a wood board in 1760. He demonstrated his 'roller skate' during a party, but ran into a mirror - which gave the roller skate its reputation of being dangerous. The idea was later on developed by an American, who took a patent on it.

2) the world wide web. An informaticus from Tongeren, Robert Calliau, is together with Sir Tim Berners-Lee the founder of the world wide web. In 1990 they worked on a system to transmit documents, Hyper Text Transfer, which controled the communication between browsers and servers as we now know it.

3) body mass index. Adolphe Quetelet from Gent was one of the first who applied statistics on humans. In 1835 he came up with a formula to calculate if a person weighs too much or too little. His invention is now better known as BMI

4) cricket. If you hear ths word, you immediately think of Great-Britain. But this ball sport was invented by a group of Flemings, albeit very much by accident. In the 1500s England had many guest workers from Flanders, who were mainly weavers. Their passtime was game they named 'ketsen met de krik' (the 'krik' being one of their tools). From this developed the term 'cricket'.

5) the stir sieve. When Victor Simon watched his wife struggling in the kitchen, he came up with the idea of creating a pot with sieve and crank-handle. This resulted in the 'passe vite' which my grandmother so loved and we still have one. It makes it so easy to make potato mash or anything else!

These are just a couple of the lists which were mailed to the radio station. We have had many more inventions, but these are just the most remarkable ones.

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