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Kristina Mulina

Assistant to Patent Attorney

20 August 2020

The inventions created thanks to wars

A war… All people associate this word with a destruction and great mortality. However, now, I would like to talk to you about another side of the war, about the benefits it has brought, namely, about the inventions that have been created thanks to the wars. We have been using many of them up to now. Who would have thought that if we had lived in a world without the wars, we could have been left without canned food, canisters, microwaves, superglue, Scotch tapes, sanitary pads and other needful inventions. Now, I shall tell you more about some of the inventions created thanks to the wars.


Canned food. Modern canned food appeared more than two hundred years ago. For the needs of the army. In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte announced a reward of 12 thousand francs for the invention capable of keeping products fresh for a long time. The need for the creation of such invention became especially urgent after the failure of his campaign in Russia. The competition was won by cook Nicolas Francois Appert, who had created the world’s first method for preserving products. His jams, broths and roasted meat placed by him in the glass jars and heated, were opened eight months later, and all products were absolutely preserved. Later, in 1809, Appert was awarded a State Prize and the honorary title of “Do-Gooder of Mankind.”


Margarine. It was invented at the end of the XIX century by the decree of Napoleon III, who announced in 1860 a reward for the invention of a cheap surrogate for butter for the consumption by the armed forces, since the economy in the country was, frankly, not in a very good state, the people and the army were starving. The solution how to invent a nutritional, but inexpensive product to replace butter by emulsifying beef fat with milk was proposed by French chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. The inventor himself did not live to see the moment, when his product became popular, he did not receive any profit from his invention and died in poverty.


Soy sausages continue the food theme of the inventions created thanks to the wars. They appeared after World War II and were invented by Konrad Adenauer, the mayor and the first Chancellor of post-war Germany. Due to the British blockade, famine came to the city of Cologne and Konrad Adenauer, who had not only managerial talents, but he also was an inventor, began to look for the products that could replace the most popular products in the diet of the citizens – bread and meat. Konrad Adenauer started to use barley, as well as rice and corn flour, instead of wheat flour. But some time later, Romania entered the war, and the supply of corn flour stopped. After that, the mayor decided to try to use soy instead of meat, and to make sausages out of it. This was a very risky step, because this product was a symbol for Germany. But the city residents were very hungry, so the product was sold out rapidly. However, the inventor could not get a patent for the vegetarian sausages for a long time, because officially, only the meat product could be called sausages in Germany. And only on June 26, 1918, the mayor-cook received the patent for his vegetarian sausages.


Microwave. No matter how surprising it may sound, the ability of the microwaves to heat food was discovered accidently during World War II. American engineer Percy Spencer, while experimenting with a magnetron, realized once that the radar waves had smelted a candy in his pocket. After searching for the cause, he discovered that the cause was exactly in the magnetrons used to generate the microwave radio signals. Then he conducted some simple experiments: he decided to heat up eggs and popcorn, and then he realized that he was on the way to discover something important. Eventually, he connected an electromagnetic field generator to a metal box, and the microwave appeared.


Sticky tape. Or, as we have used to call it in another way, Scotch tape, was also invented during World War II by the order of the military due to the need to bind and protect shells from moisture. But it turned out that the sticky tape also performed not less useful functions – it could repair anything, so this invention is popular even now. It is noteworthy that the colour of the very first Scotch tape was khaki.


Superglue. It was also invented during World War II, but, contrary to the popular misconception, not to glue wounds got at the war, but accidently. American chemist Harry Coover was working with transparent plastics for optical sights in 1942. At that time, he did not pay attention to his discovery and rejected cyanoacrylate just because it was too sticky. After a while, Harry Coover still appreciated the properties of cyanoacrylate, and this superglue got a chance to prove its usefulness to the world.


Canister. It was invented by the Germans at the course of a secret project by the order of Hitler in 1937. And by 1939, anticipating the start of the war, the Germans had thousands of 20-liter canisters in their warehouses, which are now considered to be classic canisters. They were very convenient to transport and carry, they were easy to open.


A Prototype of the Internet. During World War II, the best minds in the world were engaged in decoding the German negotiations, and the information was more important than ever. Dr. Joseph Licklider created the ARPANET system, a prototype of the modern Internet, to combine the huge computers scattered across the universities.


Aviators. Oh, yes, now we shall talk about the form of the glasses that we like to wear even nowadays. Initially, this form of the glasses was invented by Ray-Ban in 1936.  It was exactly the military pilots who needed these famous “Aviators” to protect the eyes' retina, as well as not to obscure inflight view.


Sanitary pads. The First World War gave the women this miracle invention.  Of course, the women had used the variations of the sanitary pads made of a wide variety of materials and of different shapes during centuries before. But the improved feminine sanitary protection products appeared in 1914, when the nurses began to use for their own purposes the materials designated to bandage the soldiers. Some time later, they were improved to these sanitary pads that we know now.  It is noteworthy that selling the novelty turned out to be difficult in the beginning, because at that time, the sellers in pharmacies were mainly the men, and the women, of course, were bashful of asking them for the sanitary pads.


From the examples described above, it can be seen that the wars gave the mankind a number of the inventions related not only to the military industry. Some of the inventions created in those days have become ingrained in our everyday lives improving it significantly. Summing up, it can be concluded that the wars, no matter how paradoxically it is, are the engine of the development of civilization.

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