10 important Dutch inventions

10 important Dutch inventions

It may be a small country, but the Netherlands has definitely played a significant part in the history of great inventions! Maybe you have used some of these creations multiple times without realising that a Dutch person is to thank for their existence.

Influential inventions and discoveries from the Netherlands

Have a look at some of the most notable creations from Dutch inventors:

1. The submarine

Although the concept of a submarine was first thought up by Englishman William Bourne, the working, navigable underwater vessel was first constructed by the Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel in the 1620s.

Drebbel worked for the English Royal Navy, and the submarine was tested in the River Thames. Its outer hull consisted of greased leather stretched over a wooden frame, with oars and leather flaps used for propulsion.

2. The telescope

The telescope was invented in 1608 in the Netherlands, a year before Galileo Galilei used the device to observe the stars. Details are imprecise, but it was likely in Middelburg that the stellar spyglass was developed. To this day, the names of spectacle-craftsmen Zacharias Janssen and Hans Lipperhey are in competition for the title of inventor.

The first telescopes were simple tubes with one biconvex lens and one biconcave lens. It was hard to get an accurate sighting through them.

3. The microscope

The microscope was invented in the Netherlands in the 16th or 17th century, but who exactly gets the credit is a matter of dispute. Most often mentioned is Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, although a simpler version probably already existed since 1595, created by Zacharias and Hans Janssen.

Van Leeuwenhoek’s microscope consisted of a magnifying glass with only one lens. His device magnified up to 237 times real-size, while previous ones only managed 30. It was created around the 1670s. 

While it's certainly a significant one, the microscope isn't the only notable Dutch medical invention - check out some other inventions and discoveries that changed the world!

Dutch invention microscope

4. The eye test

Interestingly, the Dutch have produced a lot of inventions relating to sight! Even the eye test in which you have to read aloud from lines of letters ranging from large to small was invented by Dutchman Herman Snellen in 1862. It is called the Snellen chart.

5. The fire hose

The modern roll-up fire hose was invented by Jan van der Heyden in 1673. Thanks to him, large fires could effectively be put out using water. He also developed an advanced pumping system. 

6. The Olympic flame

In 1928, architect Jan Wils was working on the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. He designed a tall tower with smoke emanating from it.

Wils aimed for the effect of smoke rather than a flame, because it would be more visible during the day. Since then, fire became a traditional part of the Olympics, but it wasn’t until 1936 that the flame was carried at the Berlin games by an athlete.

7. The speed camera

This is an invention that drivers all around the world come across every time they get in their car, and most of them probably don't know that the first automatic speedometer was invented by Dutch rally driver Maus Gatsonides!

The device was activated by two rubber tubes which would activate a chronometer as soon as the wheels of a car hit them. In 1958, he started to produce the devices for public use.

Dutch invention speed camera

8. The CD (and many other media-playing devices)

The Compact Disc was developed by Sony (with help from Philips) in Eindhoven. Its founding fathers are Joop Sinjou and Kees Schouhamer Immink.

The size of the hole in a CD was based on a Dutch 10-cent coin, and the first song to come out on CD was ABBA’s The Visitors in 1982.

Other media-playing items invented by Philips in collaboration with other companies are the cassette tape, the DVD, the laserdisc and Blu-Ray.

9. Bluetooth

Bluetooth was invented in the 1990s by Dr Jaap Haartsen who worked for the Swedish company Ericsson. Today, billions of products have built-in Bluetooth to connect with other wireless devices.

10. The beginning of WiFi

WiFi was made possible in 1997, thanks to a Dutch project led by Victor Hayes. The Dutchman Cees Links - also known as the father of WiFi - played a vital role. WiFi was named after a mix of HiFi (High Fidelity) and Wireless.

While two Dutchies played significant roles in creating the WiFi we know and love, the technology as we know it today was actually developed by the Australian company CSIRO.

Is it Dutch: Real or rumour?

There are often several theories about the true origin of certain creations. The following have been rumoured to be invented by the Dutch, only to be denied the honour by others:

  • Printed text
  • Windmills
  • The chocolate bar
  • Doughnuts

While sadly the Dutch may not be able to take credit for doughnuts or chocolate bars, there are plenty of other things you can thank them (or blame them) for - everything from orange carrots to the Kardashians!

Alexandra van Kampen


Alexandra van Kampen

English and Japanese theatre and culture are my forte. My mother was raised in England, and my grandmother in Japan. I studied Japanese Language and Culture, and Film and Photographic...

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Harvey Cedar 00:50 | 11 April 2020

Wikipedia lists American inventor Thomas Edison as being of Dutch descent. there are a few that made a name for themselves in astronomy. Wikipedia does not differentiate between Dutch and Frisian people there is another Wikipedia article for Dutch-Canadians