For over two thousand years, Italy, known in ancient times as the Roman Empire, has been the world’s leading nation in many areas such as architecture, art, engineering, social organization, fashion and luxury. In modern times, Italian inventors, artists, architects and engineers developed systems and technics we are still using in our every day’s life without necessarily being aware of the origins of these great discoveries and inventions. Guests visiting Canados Shipyard are always impressed by how creative and talented our craftsmen are. Watching them work or facing technical challenge always reveal a true creative and technical DNA. This is just a direct result of the deeply imbedded cultural heritage of our region. You may not realize it, but many of the things we all take for granted have their roots in Rome. Here are just a few examples.
ROADS – CIRCA 500 BC
In Great Britain, there were no road prior to the Roman invasion who created a network of straight, solid highways built on foundations of clay, chalk and gravel with larger flat stones laid on top. Original Roman roads are still intact all around the Mediterranean Basin, some still being used.
CENTRAL HEATING SYSTEM – CIRCA 15 BC
Would you imagine central heating was already used by the Romans over 2,000 years ago? The Roman central heating surely worked differently, but the result was the same. A ground level furnace was used to create hot air which circulated beneath a thin floor raised up on pillars of tiles.
THE EYE GLASSES – 1280
Salvino D’Armato degli Armati is the inventor of the eyeglass. The invention is used by millions of people all over the world. Today, the global leader in eyeglasses is Luxottica, an Italian company that manufactures, among other brands Ray-Ban, Persol, Oackley, Chanel, Ralph Lauren….
THE COMBUSTION ENGINE – 1851/1852
Late 1851 Eugenio Barsanti, a mathematician and Felice Matteucci, an Engineer, mechanic and hydraulics expert partnered on a project to exploit the explosion of a gaseous mix of hydrogen and atmospheric air to transform part of the energy of such explosions into mechanical energy.
THE SHOPPING MALL – CIRCA 100/110 BC
The concept of the world’s first Shopping Center is not American! It appeared in ancient Rome. The earliest example was the Trajan’s Market built by Apollodorus of Damascus. This building can still be visited today and visitors can see the line up of shops in this multiple story building.
CONCRETE – CIRCA 25 BC
Opus Caementicium was made from quicklime, pozzolana and an aggregate of pumice. Its widespread use in many Roman structures. One of the most impressive applications was the construction of the 4535-metric ton, 6.4-meter-thick dome at the Pantheon in Rome, which can still be visited.
CORPUS JURIS CIVILIS – 450 BC
Subpoena, habeas corpus, pro bono, affidavit – all these terms derive from the Roman legal system. The basis for early Roman law came from a code that formed an essential part of the constitution during the Republican era. Roman law remains hugely influential and is still reflected in the civil laws of several world’s nations.
THE JEANS – CIRCA LATE 1600’S
The Jeans fabric was invented in the city of Genoa, Italy and soon appeared in Nimes, France. Gênes, the French word for Genoa, became “jeans”. In Nimes, weavers tried to reproduce jean but instead developed a similar twill fabric that became known as denim meaning “from Nimes”.
THE LATIN ALPHABET – CIRCA 700 BC
The Latin alphabet, also known as the Roman alphabet, is an evolution from the Greek Alphabet. The Etruscans adopted and modified the Cumaean Greek alphabet. The Etruscan alphabet was modified by the Romans to write the Latin language,foundation of many languages worldwide.
THE HELICOPTER – 1930
Even if the original vision of the helicopter is to be credited to Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th Century Aerial Screw, and despite claims from Russians and Americans, they did not invent it. It is Corradino D’Ascanio’s bladed rotating flying machine that set the standard for helicopters to come.
TOILETS – CIRCA 200 BC
In Rome, street corners were equipped with large pots for people to urinate into so that the liquid could be collected. In some multi-story buildings, which we still call condominium, a system of pipes was channeled down to ground level where excrements were collected to be used as fertilizers.
THE MOPED – 1946
It is in 1946 that the central office for inventions delivered Piaggio with a patent for a “motorcycle of a rational complexity of organs and elements combined with a frame with mudguards and a casing covering the whole mechanical part”. This design became the Vespa, the most popular moped ever.
THE BANKING SYSTEM – 1149
The banking system and organization we are using today was created when the Bank of San Giorgio opened for business in Genoa, Italy, in 1149. The world’s oldest bank still in activity is also Italian. It is the Monte Paschi di Siena that was founded in 1472 in Siena, Toscana.
THE CARDAN SHAFT – CIRCA 1560
Gerolamo Cardano was considered the greatest mathematician of the Renaissance. He was one of the key figures in the foundation of probability and invented several devices including the combination lock and the Cardan shaft, still used today in the engine room of your yacht.
THE PIZZERIA – 1738
Established in 1738 as a stand for peddlers, Antica Pizzeria in Naples is considered the world’s first pizzeria when it was opened as a restaurant in 1830. They would make pizza in wood-fire ovens and bring it onto the street. The pizzas were simple, with toppings such as oil and garlic.
THE BAROMETER – 1643
Evangelista Torricelli is credited with inventing the barometer in 1643, but historical documentation suggests Gasparo Berti, another inventor unintentionally build a water barometer sometime between 1640 and 1643. This invention was, and still is widely used in the maritime world.
TYPEWRITER – 1575
In 1575 printmaker, Francesco Rampazzetto, invented the «scrittura tattile», a machine to impress letters on papers. In 1802 Italian Agostino Fantoni developed a particular typewriter to enable his blind sister to write while it is in 1808 it was invented by Pellegrino Turri as we know it.
THE CALENDAR – 46 BC
Without the Romans we would not even know today’s date or, we would but it would be called something different. The Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC split the year for the first time into 365 days, divided into 12 months, with a leap day added to February every 4 years.
ELECTROCHEMICAL BATTERY – 1800
Alessandro Volta build and described the first electrochemical battery, also known as the Voltaic pile, in 1800. It was made of a stack of copper and zinc plates, separated by brine-soaked paper disks, that could produce a steady current for a considerable length of time.
THE UNIVERSITY – 1088
Almost 1000 years old, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world. It is still open today and has been continuously since 1088. The university was made famous for its teaching of canon and civil law, and later became central in the development of medieval Roman law.
THE NEWSPAPER – 1556
It is in Venice that the government realized there was a need for accessible information that could be rotated around towns, cities and further afield. It started to put together a monthly publication a handwritten newsletter reporting political, military and economic news.
EAU DE COLOGNE – 1708
The first Eau de Cologne was a spirit-citrus perfume launched in Cologne in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina, an Italian perfume maker. He wanted to invent a fragrance that reminded him of an «Italian spring morning after the rain». He named his fragrance Eau de Cologne, in honor of his new hometown.
THE DENTURE – CIRCA 700 BC
It as early as the 7th century BC, that traces of the first denture were discovered. The Etruscans, the inhabitants of a region now called Toscany, made partial dentures out of human or other animal teeth and bones fastened together with gold bands.
THE OPERA – 1597
Rome born Jacopo Peri was a composer and singer whose carrier span between the Renaissance and Baroque epoca, and is the inventor of the Opera. He wrote the first opera, Dafne in 1597, and also Euridice in 1600 that is still played nowadays.
THE PADDLE BOAT – CIRCA 1490
Centuries before Mark Twain wrote about paddleboats on the Mississippi River, Leonardo Da Vinci applied his knowledge of mechanical engineering to build a craft that was fast and easy to navigate. Sailors worked the pedals to turn rotating paddles and move the boat.
OTHER ITALIAN INVENTIONS STILL USED TODAY:
- Electroplating, a manufacturing technique invented by Luigi Brugnatelli in 1805;
- Liposuction medical procedure invented by Dr Giorgio Fischer in 1974;
- Medical Thermometer, invented by Sanctorius in the early 1600s;
- Epidemiology, a discipline invented by Girolamo Fracastoro in the mid 16th;
- Montessori education developed by Maria Montessori in 1907;
- Nitroglycerin, first synthesized, by Ascanio Sobrero in 1847;
- the Parachute, Leonardo da Vinci – 1485;
- Polypropylene was discovered by Giulio Natta and began to be manufactured in 1957;
- Perspective Linear was first invented by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi, in Florence;
- Science academy, first scientific society was founded in Naples in 1560 by Giambattista della Porta;
- Quick release skewer attaching a wheel to a bicycle was invented by Tullio Campagnolo in 1927;
- Stem cells as vectors for Gene Therapy, In 1992 Doctor Claudio Bordignon performed the first procedure of gene therapy;
- Tontine a form of life insurance developed by Lorenzo De Tonti in 1653.
A FEW FAMOUS HIGH-TECH AND LUXURY ITALIAN COMPANIES
AgustaWestland helicopters • Piaggio Aerospace • Armani, Berluti • Borsalino • Bottega Veneta • Brioni • Bulgari • Canali • Roberto Cavalli • Dolce & Gabbana • Etro • Fendi • Salvatore Ferragamo • Frette • Gucci • Kiton • La Perla • Loro Piana • Max Mara • Moschino • Cesare Paciotti • Panerai • Prada • Sergio Rossi • Tod’s • Trussardi • Valentino • Ermenegildo Zegna • Bertone • Ferrari • Lamborghini • Maserati • Pagani • Pininfarina • Zagato • Bertone • Giugiaro • Scaglietti • Alcantara • Alessio • Brembo • Momo • Omp • OZ • Pirelli • Sparco • Alessi • Illy • Lavazza • Segafredo • Cerruti 1881 • Roberto Coin • Corneliani • Gianfranco Ferré • Alberta Ferretti • Moschino • Prada • Nina Ricci • Trussardi • Valentino • Beretta • Gianni Versace • Ermenegildo Zegna • STMicroelectronics • Campari • Ferrero • San Pellegrino • Segafredo • Iso Rivolta • Costa Crociere • Aprilia • Ducati • Vespa • Moto Guzzi • MV Agusta • Bulgari • Damiani • Persol • Zanussi • Technogym • Alessi • Artemide • B&B Italia • Cassina • Jacuzzi • Boffi • Canados