Swiss inventions that have changed the world we know
Switzerland has the characteristic of converting crazy ideas into practical tools with catchy names. Chemists and scientists from all walks of life have used their Swiss pragmatism over and over again to turn out inventions that have changed the world forever. Here are a few examples:
The World Wide Web – Tim Berners-Lee at CERN (1989)
The combination of British ideas and Swiss practicality seems to be a winner. Just over 100 years after the bobsleigh track, another English man was using the resources available in Geneva to create the World Wide Web.
It was while he was working at CERN that Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. Inspired by CERN’s own shared network, but frustrated that each computer stored information with a different login, Berners-Lee created his own version. The first website in the world was based at CERN, on Berners-Lee’s own computer, hosting information about how the web worked.
This “NeXT” machine – the original web server – is still at CERN today. In 1993, CERN released the software into the public domain, the World Wide Web was born, and the way we find, browse and share information changed forever.
Velcro® – Georges de Mestral (1941)
You could say that the Swiss like things to stick. Does it surprise you that Velcro® was invented, patented and registered in Switzerland?
Hunting in the Jura mountains, a Swiss engineer noticed that certain seeds were attaching themselves to his clothes, as well as to his dog –and they were nigh on impossible to remove. On closer inspection, these ‘burrs’ seemed to have tiny hooks, attaching them tightly to fibres and hair.
With help from friends in the weaving industry, Georges de Mestral managed to replicate this ‘hook and loop’ fastening method in an invention. He named it velcro, from the French velour and crochet (velvet and hook). Although he marketed it as a ‘zipperless zipper’ in the 1950s, it took an organization like NASA to finally hook the world: in 1969, astronauts used Velcro® to secure things inside the Apollo spaceship.
Now, it may take another Swiss to quieten the loud noise that Velcro® makes – as well as to track down the name of the dog that inspired de Mestral.
*This article is abridged and extracted from https://houseofswitzerland.org/