7 great Dutch inventions you never knew were Dutch

Apart from an awesome little drink called gin (nope, it wasn’t invented by the Brits), there are a number of other important inventions that are the brainchild of Dutch scientists, opticians, architects and more!

In fact, there are many Dutch inventions that have been pretty groundbreaking.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be pretty surprised that some of the inventions on this list are actually Dutch! So, without further adieu, let’s get started!

7. The submarine

The submarine was invented by a Dutchman employed by the English Royal Navy. Image: Flemming Mahler Larsen/Wikimedia/CC3.0

No, the Beatles didn’t invent the (yellow) submarine and it certainly wasn’t Englishman William Bourne. However, he was the first person to develop the concept around it. In the 1620s, it was Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel who constructed the first vessel that could be navigated underwater.

He was employed by the English Royal Navy, which used the river Thames as a testing ground for the submarine. The submersible consisted of a wooden frame with leather stretched over it and oars were used to propel it. It is actually a pretty scary thought that there was only a piece of greased leather protecting you from the freezing ocean. Brrr! 🌊

6. The Olympic flame

Architect Jan Wils invented it (the Olympic flame) “by accident”. Image: Country Wind/Wikimedia/Public Domain

Bet you didn’t know that the Olympic flame was originally Dutch! Now you’re impressed, right? It was, however, invented “by accident” when architect Jan Wils designed the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. He created a tall tower with a smoke effect to attract attention. Hence it became a tradition at the Olympics to use the now world-famous flame.

5. The telescope & microscope

Two gentlemen from Middelburg invented the telescope. Image: Ryan Wick/Flickr/CC2.0

Yep, both of them are Dutch inventions! In 1608 (one year before Galileo, say what?!) spectacle-craftsmen Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lipperhey from Middelburg had developed the telescope. The first stellar spyglass consisted of a simple tube as well as one biconvex and biconcave lens.

As far as the microscope is concerned, Dutchmen like Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Zacharias or Hans Jansen are mentioned as inventors. Van Leeuwenhoek used a magnifying glass with one lens that could magnify up to 237 times!

4. The eye-test

And can you read the next line? Image: David Travis/Unsplash

You know when you go to the eye specialist and you have to read letters ranging from large to small off of a board? Yes? Well, it’s because the Dutch care about our eyesight! Herman Snellen invented this chart (called the Snellen-Chart) in 1862.

3. The speed camera

Did we really need this invention? The speed camera. Image: Janitors/Pixabay

Hmm, not sure if this is something we should really thank the Dutch for. The rally driver and inventor Maus Gatsonides is responsible for the invention of the first automatic speedometer, which he started to produce and sell in 1958. He used two rubber tubes, which as soon as the car tires hit them, would activate the chronometer to measure the speed.

2. CD, DVD and Blu-Ray

The Dutch are also the masterminds behind the CD and DVD. Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Joop Sinjou and Kees Schouhamer Immink are the masterminds behind the compact disc that was produced by Sony and Philips. They based the size of the CDs hole on a Dutch 10-cent coin. Next to the CD, Philips also invented the cassette tape, the DVD, and Blu-Ray seriously impressive!

1. Bluetooth

Bluetooth was invented by Dr. Jaap Haartsen. Manuel Iglesias/Flickr/CC2.0

Alright, I’ve got one more of these Dutch inventions! Dutchman Dr Jaap Haartsen came up with the idea for Bluetooth while he was working for the Swedish company Ericsson.

And if that doesn’t convince you that the Dutch are quite the inventors, then guess what? WiFi even has Dutch roots too with Cees Links playing a vital role in its creation in 1997 and paving the way for WiFi technology as we know and use it today (it was actually developed by an Australian organisation called CSIRO).

And the list of Dutch inventions doesn’t end there! Which Dutch invention do you love most?

Feature Image: Ryan Wick/Flickr/CC2.0
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in March 2017, and was updated in October 2021 for your reading pleasure. 

Alexandra Huetter
Alexandra Huetter
Alexandra Huetter is a native Austrian with a passion for traveling. Having worked in tourism, marketing and sales she finally decided to exchange her 9-to-5 job for the unpredictable yet rewarding world of freelancing. She has been working as a freelance copywriter in Amsterdam since 2011.

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    • The first car driving on solar energy only… Product of Lightyear One. My son is a co-founder of the company. Google them for more info.

  1. The Dutch are amazing!!! Everyday I become more amazed by them. My neighbour has been telling me how amazing the Dutch are for 3 years, I didn’t believe her at first (she’s Dutch), but she says its so many times I now agree with her to get her to talk about something else (e.g., her cat peeing on my tulips). Who else could have done all these amazing things listed in this article but the Dutch? They also keep out the water so we can be dry, make cheese, and clogs. And have you seen them ride bikes? Or go on a train with a transport card? No other word but amazing!


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