ATTENTION: For this AEIOU article, there is probably
a new version in

Please click here


home austria albums search annotate deutsch

Erbse, Heimo - Ermacora, Felix (13/25)
Erdwärme Erggelet, Johann Fidel

Erfindungen und Erfinder

© Copyright

The first sewing machine, 1815, by J. Madersperger (Technical Museum, Vienna).

Inventions and Inventors: Austria´s contribution to the history of inventions is significant. However, in many cases it is difficult to ascribe an invention to one particular person, as frequently a problem was dealt with simultaneously and independently in different countries, leading to parallel inventions. Up to the 18th and 19th centuries, inventions were usually made by individuals involved in practical work, in recent decades inventions have increasingly resulted from scientific research. In addition, the commercial realisation of inventions takes place in a cycle of invention, innovation and diffusion (distribution).

Due to their significance for economic development, technological inventions are protected by law. In Austria, systematic legal regulation began under Emperor Franz II, who enacted a decree (December 24, 1794) regulating the granting of privileges for the invention of useful machines or for newly invented products. Other laws governing privileges were enacted in 1810, 1820 and 1852, and were finally laid down in the 1897 Patent Act, still valid today in its 1970 version (BGBl. 259/1970). This law protects new inventions that can be used for commercial purposes for a period of 18 years.

Austrian inventions and inventors can be found in a broad range of economically significant fields. Basically, these contributions either resulted from specific Austrian know-how, or met a particular Austrian need. Only few inventions have been of international significance and have actually been utilised economically, such as the inventions by C. Auer von Welsbach (gas mantle), L. Hatschek (asbestos cement), M. Thonet (furniture made of bent wood), V. Kaplan (K. water turbine) and J. Ressel (marine propeller). Others, like J. Kravogl (electric motor), O. Nußbaumer (radio detector), J. Madersperger (sewing machine), P. Mitterhofer (typewriter) and S. Marcus (automobile) did not have any economic success.

Mining and metal processing are branches which have dominated Austria´s economy for centuries. P. von Rittinger (1811-1872) developed a new wet technique for ore processing and H. Fleissner (1881-1928) founded new principles for drying ore and coal. Pioneers in the field of crucible steel production were the Rosthorn family in Lippitzbach (from 1793), M. Miller (1769-1833) in St. Aegyd am Neuwalde and J. H. Bleckmann (1826-1891) with his Phönix steel works in Mürzzuschlag. It was also in Mürzzuschlag that Max Mauermann (1868-1929) worked, who in 1913 invented stainless steel. Rudolf Schmidt (1894-1955) revolutionised reinforced-concrete engineering by inventing TOR-Steel ("Torsion Steel") in 1936. Other significant experts in the field of metallurgy were P. Schwarzkopf (1886-1970), the founder of powder metallurgy and of the Plansee metalworks in Reutte in 1921, and H. Jüptner-Jonstorff (1853-1941). The invention of the LD Process in Linz, an invention in the field of steel production, is also of international importance.

During the 19th century mechanical engineering was crucial for the development of industrialisation. L. Baudiß (1861-1914) and A. Collmann (1851-1937) introduced new systems of steam engine control, contributing to the development of the steam engine, which had dominated technology for a long time. H. Hörbiger (1860-1931), the originator of the "Welteislehre" (world ice theory), a theory of cosmogony which is, however, not based on scientific principles, designed the first light, frictionless disk valve for blowers, pumps and compressors. Even more numerous were inventions of production machines: C. G. Hornbostel (1778-1841) was the first to produce silk fabric using a mechanical weaving loom, and E. Fehrer (b. 1919) has obtained hundreds of patents for the construction of new textile machinery since 1948. Since the 1950s, Plasser & Theurer, based in Linz, have successfully produced and exported machines for railway track construction. In Deutschlandsberg, V. Czerweny (1877-1956) developed the first automatic match-producing machine in 1898, thus making a crucial contribution to the match industry. In 1870 A. Freissler (1838-1916) constructed the first lift in Vienna. V. Kaplan (1876-1934), from Mürzzuschlag, was the inventor of the low-pressure water turbines with variable pitch runner blades, which could also be used for low heads in river power stations with changing water throw. The Kaplan turbine is used worldwide, mainly in large hydroelectric power plants. The bulb-type turbine, invented in 1936, is a further development. The technique of bending wood by means of hot steam founded by M. Thonet (1796-1871) in 1830 in Vienna was a major step in the progress of mechanical wood processing.

The development of transportation has always been closely connected with mechanical engineering. In 1862 J. Haswell (1812-1897) invented the forging press in a Vienna locomotive factory and thus made an important contribution to the construction of large-size machinery. Other successful Austrian locomotive designers were G. Sigl (1811-1887), who also invented a high-speed printing machine, K. Gölsdorf (1861-1916), W. von Engerth (1814-1884), who designed the first mountain locomotive for the Semmering railway, and A. Giesl-Gieslingen (1903-1992), who invented a flat funnel for steam locomotives. The construction of the Railway, Horse-drawn and the Semmering Railway made Austria a pioneer in the field of railway construction. A. Negrelli (1799-1858) achieved international fame as an engineer and expert in railway, hydraulic and road engineering. In addition, he became famous for his plans for the construction of the Suez canal, which was subsequently carried out by F. Lesseps.

An important step in the history of navigation was the invention of the propeller (privilege 1827) by J. Ressel (1793-1857), which was fixed at the stern of a ship and replaced the paddle wheel which had been used until then. One century later, Ernst L. Schneider (1894-1975) invented the cycloidal screw propeller which gave ships unlimited maneuvrability at rest. Apart from propulsion, ship hull design is crucial for overcoming water resistance. F. F. Maier (1844-1926) designed a low-resistance hull shape (patented in 1905) which is still used as a basis for ship-building today.

The Austrian pioneer of automobile construction is S. Marcus (1831-1898), who came to Vienna in 1853 as a mechanic. In 1865 he designed his first test vehicle with a petrol engine. The only Marcus model which has been preserved was built in 1875 or 1888; it is equipped with a horizontal single-cylinder four-stroke engine with electromagnetic ignition and injection brush-carburettor. It was also in Vienna that C. Gräf (1871-1939) constructed his first petrol engine car with a Cardan front-wheel drive in 1898 (patented in 1900); from 1898 L. Lohner (1858-1925) and the young F. Porsche (1875-1951) constructed an electrical automobile with wheel-hub motors in the front wheels. The prototype of Porsche cars was designed after World War I in Gmünd (Carinthia). From 1891, J. Puch (1862-1914) produced the first Austrian factory-made bicycle in Graz and later also constructed motor-cycles and automobiles. In 1948, H. List (b. 1896) founded AVL an international research and development centre for combustion engines in Graz.

Aviation: W. Kreß (1836-1913) experimented with freely suspended kite-models from 1877. In 1900 he invented the control stick for combination control, but his first experimental take-off in 1901 failed. In 1907 I. Etrich (1879-1967), who constructed the first motor aerocraft in Austria, had already obtained patents for his wing design and the air propeller in 1905. After 1910, the "Etrich-Taube" ("Etrich Dove") was developed further by E. Rumpler (1872-1940) and renamed "Rumpler-Taube" ("R. Dove"). Rumpler also became famous for his "Tropfenauto", a "drop-shaped" aerodynamic automobile design, which he built in 1921. In 1895/1896 D. Schwarz (1850-1897) built the first all-metal dirigible airship made of aluminium.

Electrical Engineering: one of the early pioneers in this field was J. Kravogl (1823-1889), a Tirolean, who obtained a privilege for his "electric power wheel", the forerunner of the electric motor, which he constructed in 1867. G. Kapp (1852-1922), the inventor of the phase shifter, established many basic principles for the calculation and the construction of dynamos and transformers. R. v. Lieben (1878-1913) provided an important element for the construction of radio and telephone devices with the invention of amplifier valve in 1905/1906 and in 1910 with the hot thermionic cathode. In 1904 O. Nußbaumer carried out the first wireless transmission of music in Graz. G. Dietl (1862-1946) invented an automatic system of two-motion selectors for exchange offices. W. J. Gintl (1804-1883) constructed the first portable telegraph. F. W. Schindler (1856-1920), the founder of "Elektra Bregenz", whose electrical kitchen (privilege 1891) was presented for the first time at the world fair in Chicago in 1893, established himself as a pioneer of household electrification.

Construction: Although there have been fewer Austrian inventions in this field, Austria has been influential in using and distributing reinforced concrete. The following inventors should be mentioned in this context: F. I. Emperger (1862-1942), J. Melan (1853-1941), who developed the "Melan technique" for arch construction, G. A. Wayss (1851-1917) and A. Porr (1872-1915). In 1901 L. Hatschek (1856-1914) invented asbestos cement (eternit), an all-purpose material used especially for roof coverings and façades.

Chemical Industry: in Austria this branch of industry was of minor importance for a long time. C. Auer von Welsbach (1858-1929) is a notable exception, as he invented the gas mantle in 1895, the Osmium metal-filament lamp 3 years later and ferrocerium (mischmetal, Auer´s metal) for lighters in 1904. A. Schrötter von Kristelli (1802-1875) revolutionised the match industry by using red, nontoxic phosphorus. A. M. Pollack von Rudin (1817-1884) invented the match box with sliding covers and striking surfaces on its sides. J. N. Reithoffer (1781-1872) had economic success with the production of water-proof clothes (privilege 1824) and the utilisation of raw rubber (1831). J. Hardtmuth (1758-1816) was another successful Austrian who invented the ceramic pencil lead. His grandson, F. von Hardtmuth developed the "Koh-i-noor" pencil with 17 different degrees of hardness in 1889.

Photography and Film: there are numerous Austrian inventions in this field. As early as 1840/1841 J. Natterer (1821-1900) improved Daguerre´s silver plates; soon after he succeeded in the fluidisation of carbon dioxide. In 1840 P. W. F. von Voigtländer (1812-1878) constructed the first all-metal camera in Vienna, for which J. Petzval (1807-1891) calculated the portrait lens. J. M. Eder (1855-1944) invented a developer solution for improved colour reproduction. S. Stampfer (1792-1864) made an important contribution to the early history of motion pictures by inventing the stroboscopic moving picture. In 1904 A. Musger (1868-1929) obtained a patent for his invention of slow motion photography.

Printing: The invention of lithographic printing by A. Senefelder (1771-1834) in 1799 revolutionised the typographical reproduction of pictures. In 1803 Senefelder founded the first lithographic printing works in Vienna. In 1878 K. Klíc (1841-1926) invented two new gravure press methods: heliogravure and knife printing. J. Degen (1760-1848), who was also a flight pioneer, constructed the first Guilloche printing machine for printing counterfeit-proof banknotes in 1819. In 1883 N. Schlotterhoß (1852-1892) obtained a privilege for the invention of a copying device.

Instrument Design: S In 1830. Plößl (1794-1868) constructed a dialytic telescope and various microscopes. C. Reichert (1851-1922) and K. Reichert (1883-1953), who ran a business in Vienna, contributed a number of innovations to this field, new lenses, the development of fluorescence microscopy and of metallography in 1911 (the microscopic study of the structure of metals) being some examples.

Mechanical devices developed in the Baroque period were the forerunners of apparatus for scientific use: F. von Knaus (1724-1789) developed a mechanical writing device, W. von Kempelen (1734-1804) invented a chess automaton and a speaking device; J. N. Mälzel (1772-1838) designed a mechanical doll and in 1816 invented the metronome. P. Mitterhofer (1822-93), a South Tirolean, invented the typewriter but was not able to economically exploit his invention. Similarly, the inventor of the sewing machine, J. Madersperger (1768-1850), could not make any profit with his invention.

The design of calculators developed out of apparatus and automaton design. A. Braun the Younger (1708-76), for example, invented the first functioning pin-wheel type calculating machine for the four fundamental arithmetical operations in 1766. For the evaluation of the census of 1890 in Vienna a punch-card machine constructed by O. Schäffler (1838-1928) was used. In the interwar period, Gustav Tauschek (1899-1945) obtained 168 patents for the construction of fully automatic book-keeping machines and calculators. In Vienna, H. Zemanek (b. 1920) constructed the first Austrian computer, the "Mailüfterl" ("May breeze") 1954-1959.

Requirements of military armaments frequently triggered technical inventions. In 1865 K. Holub (1830-1903) and J. Werndl (1831-1889) constructed the breech-loading gun. In 1882, F. Mannlicher (1848-1904) invented the repeating gun (magazine rifle), which was produced in Werndl´s factory in Steyr. G. Burstyn (1879-1945) constructed a cross-country armoured car with revolving gun turret (tank); in 1914 J. M. Boykow (1878-1935) invented an automatic bomb dropping device and the autopilot (automatic control system for aircraft). F. von Uchatius (1811-1881) was the director of gun casting in the Vienna Arsenals and in 1874 became famous for the invention of steel bronze for gun casting.

© Copyright

First type-writer, made of wood, model "1864 Wien", by P. Mitterhofer (Technical Museum, Vienna).

© Copyright

Kaplan-Turbine (Technical Museum, Vienna).

Literature: E. Attlmayr, Ti. Pioniere der Technik, 1968; M. Habacher, Österr. Erfinder, 1964; E. Kurzel-Runtscheiner, Erfindungen aus Österreich, 1950; Österr. Naturforscher und Techniker, 1950 and 1957; Triumphe der Technik, Pionierleistungen österreichischer Erfinder, 1963.

References to other albums:
Video Album: AVL-LIST: Herstellung von Verbrennungsmotoren.

User Guide Abbreviations
© Copyright Encyclopedia of Austria


Search for links to this page
help aeiou project of the bm:bwk copyrights e-mail