When we think of science and scientists we only have in mind those people that became famous due to the strong geopolitical position of their country, like USA, France, England, Germany and so on. But what about those lesser-known parts in the world?
Perhaps many of you don’t know it yet, but Romanian inventors contribution to science and the global society as it is made a difference and changed the course of the world as we know it today. In this lens you will make a foray into the story of 27 Romanian inventors and their important discoveries.
Ana Aslan… and Gerovital
Physician, professor and scientist, Ana Aslan founded in 1952 the world’s first geriatric institute in Bucharest. This is where Aslan discovered the benefits of vitamin H3 – named Gerovital – in treating aging and age-related illnesses.Currently patented in over 30 countries, Gerovital’s mass production began in 1958.
Ana Aslan worked in collaboration with I. Polovrageanu and invented Aslavital, a geriatric product patented in 1980. She received worldwide recognition; the World Health Organization awarded her the international Leon Bernard prize and medal in 1952 for her contribution to the development of gerontology and geriatrics.
Victor Babes… and microbiology
Physician, bacteriologist and anatomy pathologist, Victor Babes was one of the founders of modern microbiology. He studied medicine in Budapest, Vienna, Paris, Berlin and Strasbourg. In 1885 he published, together with the french Andre-Victor Cornil, the first complete and systematic treatise of bacteriology.
Babes made an important contribution to the study of rabies, leprosy, diphtheria and tuberculosis; he also discovered viral particles in rabies-infected nerve cells (the Babes-Negri bodies). Victor Babes is known for revealing the importance of immune serum, capable of suppressing the virus, for laying down the principle of passive immunization and for finding an original method of rabies immunization in 1888.
For the first time he introduced the antibiogram test, later on taken over by German biologist Iulius Richard Petri, who developed the Babes-Petri’s dish, still in use today. In 1888, Babesfounded the second rabies vaccination center in the world after Louis Pasteur’s in Paris.
Ion St. Basgan… and percussion rotary drilling
Engineer who studied and earned a doctor’s degree in Austria, Ion St. Basgan revolutionized the drilling systems in 1932, introducing percussion rotary drilling – a method still used today.
Basgan patented sonic drilling in Romania in 1934 and in 1937 in U.S., an invention that increased drill depth from 3000 to 5000 meters.For the first time, Basgan applied the principles of sonics laid down earlier by Romanian scientist Gogu Constantinescu, mentor and friend.
He is also known for discovering the physical effect named after him (the Basgan effect), which led to an improvement of the drilling techniques by reducing hydromechanical pressure occurring during drilling.
Grigore Briscu… and the horizontal flight
Grigore Briscu is the first engineer who in 1909 began experimenting with the cyclic variation of rotor blade pitch in order to ensure horizontal flight and stability and piloting helicopters. Even today, the „automatic deviation device” is still one of the most important helicopter systems.
Grigore Briscu stands as one of the most theorists of mechanical flight. He made a helicopter model he named „air-carriage” which had all the features of a helicopter-like flying machine: horizontal, vertical and lateral movement and fix-point landing.
Grigore Briscu’s contributions to the study and development of mechanical flight earned him a place among the greatest Romanian inventors of the twentieth century.
Constantin Budeanu… and the „deformed power”
Energy engineer who obtained a specialized training in Paris, in 1909; Constantin Budeanu achieved remarkable research results in electrical engineering, energetics and metrology. He introduced a new parameter – „deformed power” – and determined its calculation methods in a treatise published in 1927.
In 1930, Constantin Budeanu laid down the definitions of „reactive power” and „power factor”, as well as the designation of the reactive power unit called VAR (Volt-Ampere-Reactive). In the same year, Budeanu’s concepts were officially adopted by the International Electrotechnical Commission.
As a professor of the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute, Constantin Budeanu received many national and international honors, became a member of the Romanian Academy and received the Gratitude Medal from the Conseil International des Grands Reseaux Electriques (CIGRE) in Paris, in 1946.
Elie Carafoli (1901-1983)… and the cross-shaped wings
An electromechanical engineer, Elie Carafoli received a doctor’s degree in physics from Sorbone, in 1928, and later on became a professor within the Fluid Mechanics Department of the same famous university. Here he developed the rounded trailing edge profiles, known as the „Carafoli profiles”.
In Romania, Elie Carafoli taught at the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute and, starting with 1929, collaborated with the Aircraft Manufacturing Company of Brasov. In 1938, he developed the IAR-80 fighter aircraft, one of the top aircrafts at the time. Carafoli was the first researcher to accurately solve the problem of the cross-shaped wings used for rockets.
Following his remarkable scientific activity, Carafoli became the youngest member of the Romanian Academy in 1948, and later on vice-president and president of the International Federation of Aeronautics between 1966 and 1974.
Gheorghe Cartianu (1907-1982)… and radio communications
Founder of the Romanian school of radio engineering and radio communications, professor and inventor, Gheorghe Cartianu attended both the Polytechnic Institute and the University of Bucharest. While at the Radio Communications Department of the Polytechnic Institute, Cartianu conducted fundamental and applied scientific research.
In 1940, he formulated a new stability criterion for linear and non-linear power systems, know as the „Cartianu-Loewe criterion”. In 1949, Cartianu established the first radio relay connection in the country, between Bucharest and Tancabesti, Ilfov County.
He also invented an emission-reception device for radio telex bilateral communication system in the world for mining galleries.
Alexandru Ciurcu (1854-1922)… and the rocket engine
Alexandru Ciurcu studied Law in Vienna, but always took a passionate interest in technical science. Later on, he built in Paris a reactive engine together with French Just Buisson.
On 13 August 1886, the two were the first in the world to successfully test a reaction engine boat on the river Seine, an invention which was later on patented in France, England, Belgium and Italy. A new experiment for a bigger engine, however, ended tragically on 16 December 1886, when Buisson was killed in an explosion.
Ciurcu would continue experiments with the help of smokeless gunpowder inventor, Paul Vieille. The reaction engine was mounted on a rail wagon and demonstrated the operating principle of the rocket engine.
Henri Coanda (1886-1972)… and the first jet aircraft
Scientist, aircraft builder and inventor, with over 250 patents registered Henri Coanda is one of the leading pioneers of jet propulsion.
A graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Paris, Coanda gained fame in 1910, when he presented and piloted the first jet aircraft in the world, the „Coanda biplane”.In 1934, he patented in France the Coanda effect – „the deviation of a plan jet of a fluid that penetrates another fluid in the vicinity of a convex wall”.
The discovery of the Coanda effect marked the birth of fluid mechanics, having many applications in everyday life, the most important being the jet flight, without which modern transportation would be unconceivable. In the memory of the great scientist and inventor, Bucharest’s International Airport is named after him.
George (Gogu) Constantinescu (1881-1965)… and the theory of sonics
Engineer and inventor, member of the Romanian Academy, George Constantinescu is the creator of the theory of sonics – a branch of solid mechanics, based on the transmission of mechanical energy through elastic vibrations in fluids or solids.
The sonics principles were first applied during the First World War, in England where Constantinescu invented a device which allowed airplane-mounted-guns to shoot between the spinning blades of the propeller.
Another one of his inventions, the sonic torque converter for locomotives caused a stir at the Paris Car Show in 1926.
Valued both as a theorist and as a practitioner, George Constantinescu collected over 120 patents, for sonic rotary engines, sonic perforators, sonic hammers and other applications of the sonic principles.
Teodor Dragu (1848-1925)… and the fuel injector
A graduate of the Paris Central School of Arts and Crafts, railway engineer Teodor Dragu invented in 1896 the fuel injector named after him. The device was superior to the previously built ones and was installed on 122 locomotives.
Between 1907 and 1910, Teodor Dragu introduced liquid fuel on the ships of the Romanian Maritime Services Company, to replace coal boilers.
Based on his innovations, carriages could be heated using locomotive steam and lit up with petrol lamps (since 1887), and Romanian locomotives started operating on liquid fuel.
Teodor Dragu was among the funding members of the Romanian Polytechnic Society (1881) acting as president between 1915 and 1919.
Lazar Edeleanu (1862-1941)… and the discovering of benzedrine
After graduating from the Berlin University with a degree in chemistry, in 1887 Lazar Edeleanu went on to study for his doctor’s degree with the famous chemist A. W. von Hoffmann. While preparing his doctoral thesis Edeleanu discovered phenylisopropylamine, known today as benzedrine used in medicine as a stimulant.
On his return to Romania in 1908, Edeleanu discovered liquid sulfur dioxide extraction named the „Edeleanu process”. This process allows selective extraction and refining of aromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, xylene etc.) from crude oil.
The Edeleanu process was later on adopted worldwide. Lazar Edeleanu registered 212 patents for his inventions in Romania as well as in the U.S., Germany, France, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands, and gained international notoriety.
Dragomir Hurmuzescu (1865-1954)… and the creation of dielectrine
Physicist who obtained a bachelor’s degree as well as a doctor’s degree from Paris University, under the guidance of physics Nobel laureate Gabriel Lippmann, in 1894 Dragomir Hurmuzescu determined the formula for measuring the electromotive force of a voltaic cell with metal poles.
Together with French L. Benoist, Hurmuzescu discovered Röntgen rays’ ability to discharge electrified bodies. He created the dielectrine, an electrical insulating material made of sulfur and paraffin, used for his invention of the „Hurmuzescu electroscope”, which contributed to the discovery of radium by Pierre and Marie Curie.
Hurmuzescu is also considered the „father of Romanian radio broadcasting”, as he supervised the establishment in Bucharest of the first radio station in Romania in 1926.
Constantin Miculescu (1863-1937)… and the invention of the calorimeter
Constantin Miculescu is a graduate of Bucharest and Paris Universities, who like Dragomir Hurmuzescu, completed his doctor’s degree under the guidance of Gabriel Lippman. In 1891, Miculescu invented the calorimeter and an original method for accurately measuring the mechanical equivalent of heat.
Hence, the 4.1857 J/calorie value was taken over as such by the international tables, becoming a fundamental constant of thermodynamics. In 1950, the value established by Miculescu has only its fourth decimal corected i.e. 4.1855 J/calorie.
Constantin Miculescu also organized the molecular, acoustical and optical physics laboratory of the Bucharest University where he invented an acoustical method for measuring the elasticity coefficient of objects.
Constantin D. Nenitescu (1902-1970)… and his hydrocarbon
Graduate of Polytehnic Schools of Zürich and Munich and holding a doctor’s degree in chemistry, professor Nenitescu is regarded as the founder of the Romanian school of organic chemistry. In 1928, at 26, he published the first edition of his two treatises, „Organic Chemistry” and „General Chemistry”, which were studied by generations of students.
He made fundamental observations („Nenitescu’s reaction of acyl-reduction of alkenes”), found a new method of polymerization of ethylene at atmospheric pressure, achieved the first synthesis of butadiene and benzo-cyclo-butadiene and named the first annulene after his name – the „Nenitescu hydrocarbon”.
In recognition of his contribution to science, Nenitescu was elected member of the Romanian Academy as well as of the Academy of Germany, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.
Hermann Oberth (1894-1989)… and space travel
Pioneer of space flights, Hermann Oberth, received his doctor’s degree from the University of Cluj in 1923, his thesis „A Rocket to the Interplanetary Spaces” became an international success after its publication in Munich.
He wrote many works on space flight technique later on translated in many languages; he also designed and tested various rocket prototypes. In 1955 Wernher von Braun invited him to the US to study the flight to the Moon together.
In honor of his contribution to the development of astronautics, he received the title of Doctor honoris causa from the Universities of Berlin, Barcelona and Cluj, while an international astronautical society was named after him. Hermann Oberth is remembered as one of the leading pioneers of space travel, alongside Tiolkovski and Goddard.
Nicolae Constantin Paulescu (1869-1931)… and the discovery of insulin
Physician and professor, holding two doctor’s degree in science, Paulescu was a brilliant graduate of University of Paris. He brought important contributions to the research of diabetes, the physiology of the hypophyse and epiphysis and the role of the pancreas in food assimilation.
Paulescu was the first to discover in 1921 the anti-diabetes hormone of the pancreas, which he termed „pancreine”, later on known as insulin.
The Romanian scientist announced his discovery around ten months before the Canadian researchers F. G. Banting and J. J. R. Macleod, however they were the ones to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923. Paulescu’s precedence was recognized at the 50th anniversary of the discovery of this miraculous life-saving medicine.
Aurel Persu (1890-1977)… and aerodynamics
Mechanical engineer and inventor, Aurel Persu broke new ground in the manufacturing of aerodynamic vehicles. Persu graduated first in the Mechanics Department from the Technical School of Charlottenburg and specialized in aerodynamics and aircraft mechanics.
In 1923, after several years of calculations and research, Persu came to the conclusion that the perfectly aerodynamic automobile has the shape of a falling water-drop.
He implemented and patented his idea in 1924 in Germany, building the first automobile with the engine placed at the rear and the wheels inside its body. Persu brought it to Romania, driving it around 160000 kilometers.
From then on, it became a general rule to design automobiles with the wheels inside the aerodynamic line of their bodies.
Petrache Poenaru (1799-1875)… and the invention of the fountain pen
Graduating from the Polytechnic School of Paris, Petrache Poenaru became famous for his invention of the fountain pen in 1827.
The „Endless self-supplying ink pen”, as he called it, was patented in Vienna and Paris and soon became largely used by millions.
As a professor, Petrache Poenaru founded the National Colleges in Bucharest and Craiova and in 1833 supported the founding of higher mathematics, mechanics, architecture, geodesy, agriculture and forestry studies, in Wallachia (Tara Romaneasca).
Petrache Poenaru also organized, in 1836, the first systematical weather survey service in Bucharest, measuring air humidity, temperature and pressure.
Anghel Saligny (1854-1925)… and bridges
Anghel Saligny is one of the pioneers of Romanian engineering, leading the way in bridge building and industrial constructions.
He studied at University of Berlin and he designed the first combined (road-rail) bridges in Romania, between Adjud and Targu Ocna.
From 1884 to 1889 he designed and built the world’s first silos made from reinforced concrete prefabs in Braila and Galati.
His most important achievement was the Cernavoda Bridge over the Danube, inaugurated on 14 September 1895.
It was the longest bridge in Europe at that time and the third in the world, with a 4,008 meter opening between the two river banks.
Aurel Vlaicu (1882-1913)… and his first glider, 1909
Airplane constructor and pilot, a graduate of Polytechnic School in Munich, Aurel Vlaicu built his first glider in 1909 and then later on, in 1910, he flew an airplane several meters up in the air and over a distance of four kilometers in Bucharest.
A second airplane „Vlaicu II” was built afterwards capable of flying at an altitude of 1000 meters and at a speed of 90 km/h.
In 1912, his airplane aroused interest at the Vienna Air Show, where he competed against other aviators of the day, including Roland Garros.
He died on 13 September 1913, while attempting to cross in flight the Carpathians for the first time. Vlaicu did not finish „Vlaicu III”, his entirely metal-made airplane, a revolutionary idea which would come to life later on.
Traian Vuia (1872-1950)… and the airplane-car
The engineer who invented the first flying machines with their own takeoff systems, propulsion units and landing gear.
After graduating from Polytechnic School of Budapest, Vuia registered his patent for the „airplane-car” in France, in 1903.
He then built „Vuia I”, the first heavier-than-air machine which took off and landed using its board controls, propelling motor and undercarriage with wheels on 18 March 1906, on the field at Montesson.
„Vuia II” was built next, in 1907, and displayed at the first Air Show in Paris.
Another great invention of his was a steam generator with internal combustion and catalytic burning that could generate steam with a pressure of 100-120 atm (10 MPa), that is still used today in all thermal power stations.
Eliza Leonida Zamfirescu (1887-1973)… the first woman engineer in history
The first woman engineer in the history of Europe and in the world, Eliza Leonida Zamfirescu was a graduate of the Polytechnic School of Charlottenburg, Germany, in 1912, becoming the first woman to receive an engineering degree at the prestigious academic institution.
Between 1920 and 1963 she worked as a chemical engineer for the Geologic Institute of Bucharest. During her long activity, she found original analysis methods for liquids, minerals, petroleum and gases, coal, solid bitumen and construction rocks.
Her contribution to the research of Romania’s mineral resources won her acclaim as one of the prominent national, European and worldwide scientific figures.