Last Updated on March 10, 2021 by Gaia Zol
Ever wondered what Italy’s inventions are? Let’s find out the most famous ones.
Italians are known to be creative: it’s not a case we’re considered a people of artists. Creativity, though, doesn’t only mean art. But also science, finances, and technology. And Italians have been pretty inventive in all these fields.
Let’s take a look at seven great world inventions you may not know come from Italy.
Evangelista Torricelli isn’t an international name. Nonetheless, his mentor was Galileo Galilei. Torricelli is behind one of Italy’s most famous inventions: the barometer. This instrument is used to measure atmospheric pressure and to forecast the weather.
In 1643, Torricelli found out that changes in atmospheric pressure would influence the way mercury behaves inside air tight tubes. In fact, mercury rose and fell. After a handful of years, he created the barometer, an instrument fully based on this simple, initial observation.
Indeed, one the most famous Italy’s inventions is the newspaper.
During the 16th century, the Venetian government decided it would be useful to keep citizens updated on local events and political news. In 1556, Venice published the first newspaper. Ever.
In fact, it was the first publication entirely dedicated to current events. While different from our modern concept of daily newspaper, the invention led the way for its creation. By the way, according to historians the actual “first newspaper” was the Relation aller Furnemmen und gedenckwurdigen Historien, published by Johann Carolus in Strasbourg in 1605.
The Parachute (and some other things…)
Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Italian inventions without mentioning the biggest inventor of all times: Leonardo da Vinci. Cars, helicopters, parachutes and bikes are all among the inventions attributed to good old Leo.
Thing is, Leonardo also left detailed sketches of another incredible wander of technology. Aka, the robots. He created a prototype, mentioned in the the Codex Atlanticus. This is a 12-volumes collection of Leonardo’s drawings and writings dating. It dates back from 1478 to 1519 and nowadays the Biblioteca Ambrosiana hosts it. In the Codex, Leonardo wrote about the construction of an automated lion. The prototype was eventually built in Florence. Then, it was sent to Lyon in 1515 to celebrate King Francis I. Finally, in 2002, Mark Rosheim (a NASA scientist) assembled the lion, following Leonardo’s instructions.
Right, we all probably have a love-hate relationship with banks, at least since 2008, but let’s be honest, they are pretty handy. Banks date back to the early years of the Italian Renaissance and were created in Florence by Giovanni Bicci de’Medici, of the über-famous homonymous family. He opened the de’ Medicis’ family bank in 1397.
In 1472, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena was born: this institution, albeit with some recent difficulties, has been open and working ever since and is considered the oldest still operating bank in the world.
What would we do without our AAs? Remote controls wouldn’t work, and an enormous amount of children toys wouldn’t either.
The first battery was the brainchild of Italian Alessandro Volta, who was born in 1745 on Lake Como. In 1800, just to inaugurate with a bang the new century, Volta came up with his voltaic battery, which was able to produce electricity thanks to its copper and zinc opposite poles, immersed in a dilution of sulfuric acid. The name Volta should bring something more to mind, though: the volt, the unit used to measure electricity, which has been, of course, inspired by his own name.
This is my favorite among Italy’s most famous inventions. While keyboard instruments similar, at list in their look, to the piano (think of the harpsichord and the clavichord) existed already before the 18th century, their sound was produced by hooks plucking their strings, which gave a more metallic and less nuanced sound.
Enters Bartolomeo Cristofori, who had the brilliant idea to get rid of the hooks-and–plucking combo to introduce little hammers with an external leather covering that, when hitting the strings, would produce full bodied, more intense sounds. While it took almost a whole century to make this new instrument just perfect, by the end of the 1700s the piano was to be the most popular instrument of all.
To be fair, the Jacuzzi is an Italian-American invention, which makes it all the cooler, right?
Candido Jacuzzi was one of the many Italians who had moved to the US in search of his own American Dream. One of his children suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which would leave him in loads of pain almost everyday. Candido then put his Italian creativity at work to find a way to help his son and came out with the first hydro-massage tub.
While far from being exhaustive, this is already a pretty impressive list of Italy’s inventions. Any others you can think about? Let us know!