Croatia’s contribution to science from the 20th to 21st century

Ivan 'Juan' VuceticCroatia stands at the crossroads of the Balkans, the Mediterranean and Central Europe. Its first inhabitants were Neanderthals in the prehistoric age as evidenced by fossil discoveries in the country’s north. Although relatively small in geographical size, it’s history reveals a country that has produced some of the most prominent people in various fields of study.

When the importance of oil in driving the world’s economy is discussed, the name, Antun Lucic gets little or no mention. Born in Split, Croatia in 1855, Antun moved to America where his name was conveniently changed to Antony Lucas. He took his studies at the polytechnic of Graz where he studied mining engineering and was later to be known as the father of the petroleum industry after his discovery of the first Texas gusher. This discovery was responsible for the population build up in a town called Spindletop from 8,000 in 1901 to over 60,000 people in 1902. Again, it was because of this discovery, that America overtook Russia as the leading producer of oil.

Another prominent Croatian is, Dragutin Gorjavonic Kramberger, the first person to analyze fossil bones using x-rays. Dragutin, was born in 1856 and died in 1936. A product of the university of zagreb, he studied and became professor of paleontology and geology. He is credited with the discovery of the rich collection of the world’s Duluvial Neanderthal inhabitants at a site in Krapina not far away from Zagreb.

The father of what is called three phase and alternating current in electricity is also from Croatia. Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 and died in 1943. He studied in Graz and Prague. His contributions to the field of technology will forever be remembered. He managed to patent 112 inventions, all related to wireless technology and

telecommunications. Indeed, his contributions to modern civilization are numerous. In recognition of his work, Tesla, the magnetic induction unit was named after him. Interestingly, he declined to share the Nobel prize, in 1960, with T.Edison.

Ivan Vucetic, was an anthropologist and a criminolgist. Born on the island of Hvar in 1858, he is best remembered a pioneer in the study of fingerprints for the purposes of identification. He settled in Argentina where his name was changed to Juan Vucetich. His system of identification using fingerprints became popular and was used in the whole of south America. He rose to become the dactiloscopy director in Buenos Aires and went ahead to introduce , in 1920, a fingerprint identification system that is still in use across the world. He also invented the dactilonome an instrument used in the classification of fingerprints.

Eduard Penkala was naturalized as a Croat after his marriage. Born of in 1871 of Polish and Dutch parentage, he is credited with the invention of the mechanical and fountain pens in 1906 and 1907 respectively. His later invention, the chemical pen, was patented in 35 countries across the world. He is also credited with closely following the Wright brothers in plane construction after just seven years.

He has other interesting inventions to his name. The resin bottle that acted as a central heater in cold nights was his invention. He also invented ebonite, a material that was used in the manufacture of gramaphone records. This invention led him to enter a contract with an England based company called Edison-Bell and together they started to produce gramaphone records.

These are only a few of the prominent sons of Croatia. There are many more and history will remember them for their contribution to development of mankind.