Italy is an ancient land steeped in history. From near obscurity several thousand years ago, it came to be the birthplace of one of the world's greatest empires, Rome.
The impact the power of Rome would have on the West is incalculable. Its laws, architecture, philosophy, and culture still influence life today.
Whilst the Roman Empire has long gone, Italy is still a center of culture and innovation today. In the following article, we'll take a look at a few select inventions that can trace their origin to the Italian Peninsula.
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What did the Italians invent?
Italy, more famed for its food, coffee houses, and dangerous driving, has actually given the world some of the most important inventions of all time.
From jeans to espresso machines, Italy has had its fair share of innovators throughout history. Within the next 1000 words or so, we will highlight 9 great examples.
Trust us when we say they are but the tip of the iceberg.
What sports did Italy invent?
Whilst most people would probably associate Football (Soccer) with Italy, they did not invent it. But, as it turns out, Italy has developed its own sports in the past.
One example is the gladiator-esque ball sports game called Calcio Storico.
Other examples include: -
What is Italy famous for making?
Italy has become synonymous with fine wine, food, sports cars, and high fashion. Some of the most recognized dishes and brands happen to have their origins in Italy.
Some of the more famous Italian-origin products include, but are not limited to:
Car brands like: -
Food products like: -
- Balsamic vinegar
- Prosciutto di Parma
Fashion brand giants like: -
1. The first nuclear reactor was developed by an Italian (sort of)
The world's first artificial nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, was first developed in the U.S. This incredible achievement was led by none other than Italian (a naturalized American) physicist Enrico Fermi.
Chicago Pile-1 was able to first reach criticality in December of 1942.
Following this momentous occasion, Fermi was quickly recruited into the Manhattan Project shortly afterward. Both of these projects would change the world beyond all recognition forever.
2. You can thank the Italians for the Star Fort
The Star Fort is an iconic defensive structure from the early modern period of history. They were developed in response to the ever-growing effectiveness of gunpowder weapons, primarily cannon.
These forts are usually pentagonal or hexagonal in form and tend to incorporate bastions at the centers of their walls, but not always. Star Forts were the natural evolution of Medieval fortresses and would come to be the de facto fort for many European nations well into the 1800s.
They appear to have first been employed by the Italians during the French invasion of the late 15th and early 16th Centuries AD. The design quickly spread out of Italy in the 1530s and 1540s.
3. The Galileo thermometer was Italian
Galileo Galilei is one of the world's most important and influential minds of all time. Amongst his great achievements was the discovery of the principle behind how the thermometer works.
That is to say; he was the first to describe how the density of liquids changes in proportion to temperature.
The actual thermometer was devised by a group of academics and technicians at the Accademia del Cimento of Florence. Amongst the group was one of Galileo's pupils, Torricelli.
4. Roman Law was probably their most important invention
Roman Law is the foundation of all legal systems in Europe that followed it. Its foundations lie in classical Greek and Roman philosophy, but it was exported around Europe during the reign of the Roman Empire.
Its development roughly spans over a thousand years of jurisprudence, from the Twelve Tables (c. 449 BC) to the Corpus Juris Civilis (AD 529) ordered by Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I.
Today it forms the basis of all civil law around the world. The importance of this invention cannot be overstated.
5. The first automatic rifle was also Italian
Did you know that the world's first automatic rifle was Italian? It was devised in 1900 was called the Cei-Rigotti.
The rifle was a 6.5mm Carcano or 7.65×53mm gas-operated, selective-fire, carbines attracted considerable attention at the time.
However, despite its clear benefits over existing firearms of the time, ultimately, the Cei Rigotti was not adopted by any military force despite being tested by several countries over the decade after its introduction.
This is most likely due to its tendency to jam and erratic shooting performance. It was later abandoned as design.
6. The Mile was devised by the Italians (well Romans)
A mile is an imperial unit of length or distance measurement that is still in use by some countries around the world like the United Kingdom. It is equal to roughly 1,609 meters.
Current miles are derived from ancient Roman units of measurement called the Mille passus, ("a thousand paces"). In antiquity, Roman armies would often push carved sticks into the ground every 1,000 paces to mark how far they had traveled in uncharted lands.
But it soon became apparent that different armies traveled at different distances depending on weather, terrain, and fatigue. This was later standardized by Agrippa in 1st Century AD and was roughly 1,479 meters in length by today's standards.
7. Electrochemical Batteries were first developed by an Italian
One of Italy's greatest contributions to the world was the development of the world's first true battery. Called the Voltaic pile, it was devised by Italian physicist Alessandro Volta in around 1800 AD.
This was a stack of copper and zinc plates that were bathed in brine-soaked paper disks. Volta's setup was able to produce a steady current for a reasonable amount of time.
This single innovation was a key development in the electrification of the world today.
8. The Cupola or Dome was Italian
One of Rome's greatest achievements in architecture and civil engineering was their refinement of the Cupola or Dome. In its day, this was a profound leap in technology and understanding of architecture.
Dome design and technology continued to be developed in the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) long after the fall of Rome and reached its pinnacle in the construction of magnificent structures like Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey).
For the Romans, domes would become common features in bathhouses, villas, palaces, and tombs. They would also feature a hole or oculus at the top, but not always.
Some of them still survive to the present day.
9. The Pianoforte is another Italian Invention
The Pianoforte, or Piano for short, is one of the most beautiful and elegant of musical instruments in the world. It was invented by one Bartolomeo Cristofori of Padua, Italy in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
He was an unrivaled master harpsichord maker and was well accustomed to the practice of building stringed keyboard instruments. It is unclear when the first was ever built, but his employers, the Medici family, record the existence of one in their records in around 1700 AD.
Cristofori named the instrument un cimbalo di cipresso di piano e forte ("a keyboard of cypress with soft and loud"), which has seen become abbreviated over time.
The piano would later provide the vehicle for some of the most magnificent musical compositions the world has ever seen.