German Inventions

German Inventions German Language Coach

Many world-changing innovations originated in Germany, some widely known but others less so.

The printing press

Most of us take books for granted, but in the mid-fifteenth century Johannes Gutenberg, a craftsman from Mainz, developed the movable type printing system and an oil-based ink enabling books to be produced in large quantities.

The car

Several inventors were working on producing the motor car. Still, Karl Benz of Mühlburg, now part of Karlsruhe, was granted the first patent for an internal combustion engine in 1879 and another in 1886 for the first “Motorwagen”. Benz’s was a two-stroke petrol engine, but German engineers also developed other types of engines: Nikolaus Otto (the first practical four-stroke), Rudolph Diesel (diesel engine), and Felix Wankel (the rotary engine).


Several scientists have experimented with acetylsalicylic acid for medical applications. Still, it was in 1879 that chemist Felix Hoffmann, while working for German company Bayer, created a more stable synthesised version of the drug that became known as aspirin.

In 1895 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen from Lennep discovered what he called X-Rays, for which, in 1901, he won the first Nobel Prize in Physics.


The first small format 35mm camera was developed by optical engineer Oskar Barnack making everyday photography far more convenient and enabling the public to create and save their memories. He worked for Ernst Leitz, and the name of Leica, later to be a separate company, came from “Leitz Camera”.


Born in Salzburg to German parents, Fritz Pfleumer invented magnetic tape in 1927, revolutionising sound recording, and it is still in use today.

Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Gröttrup were granted the first patent for a plastic card containing a microprocessor which is universally known as the chip card, which changed how we carry information for banking and communication.

There are many more revolutionary inventions from Germany, and we haven’t even mentioned Albert Einstein, but ask any child about Haribo sweets. The company name is an acronym of Hans Riegel, Bonn, after the founder who invented the Gummy Bear, affectionately known in Germany as Gummibärchen, in 1922. Kids worldwide are now fans of the range of chewy sweets from Bonn.

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