Marta op den Akker


When you think of famous Dutch inventions, you might think of windmills (fun fact, windmills are originally Chinese) and stroopwafels (originally from Gouda). But there are more genius ideas the Dutch have graced the world with! Especially in the fields of science and technology the Dutch have done some ground-breaking experiments. Think of the microscope (Zacharias Janssen), cassete tapes and CD’s (Philips) and the submarine (Cornelius Drebbel). The following inventions are known world-wide and you might be surprised to find out that they all have a Dutch origin!

1. Bluetooth 
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that can be used to exchange data between different devices over a short distance. It was invented in the 1990’s by Jaap Haartsen, while he was working for Ericsson in Lund, Sweden. He studied electrical engineering at the TU in Delft before working at Ericsson. Nowadays Bluetooth is built in billions of electronic devices world-wide such as phones, laptops and speakers.

2. WiFi
It is difficult to name a single inventor of WiFi but two certain Dutchmen played an important role in the early days of the development of WiFi. In the 1990’s Victor Hayes, an electrical engineering graduate from the Hogeschool of Amsterdam, and Cees Links, graduate of Twente University, invented the world’s first wirelesss LAN product, WaveLAN. Later Hayes led a project with the goal of developing a standard format to streamline all wireless networks. For this he is often called the “Father of WiFi”. Today, the patent of WiFi belongs to the Australian research organisation CSIRO, that has greatly improved the functioning of WiFi. 

3. Gin
You might be surprised to find out that gin, while undisputedly British, has its origin in the low lands! This distilled alcoholic drink emerged in England after the introduction of jenever, brought to the island by William of Orange, who was King of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1689 until his death in 1702. Jenever is made with the extract of juniper berries and was originally used in The Netherlands as a medicine. You can still trace the history of the drink by its name: gin is an abbreviation of “genever”.

4. Orange carrots
It is hard to imagine, but carrots were not orange until the 17th Century. Up until that time, they were mostly white, purple and black. The orange carrot was cultivated in the 16th century on Dutch soil and got a boost by the family of Orange. Why? The royal family saw the orange carrot as an excellent PR tool to enhance the national feelings and unity of the Dutch. Soon the orange carrots became the most popular type of carrot in The Netherlands and the Dutch became the biggest producer of these carrots in the world. Seems like their tactic was successful!  

Fun fact! To the author’s surprise, the bottlescraper (flessenlikker), a kitchen tool used to scrape out the contents of long bottles and carton packages which has been described as a quintessentially Dutch tool as well as an example of Dutch thrift, and the cheese slicer are NOT Dutch inventions, but are in fact, Norwegian inventions.