What does each country claim for its own?

One of the things that fascinates me is how each country's view of history is clouded by its own chauvinism. I was reminded of this when researchers were able to reconstruct the original recording from a phonautograph which predated Edison's phonograph, thereby adding another claim to the mix of who invented sound recording.

I think the most contentious invention belongs to human flight. It seems that every country on the planet has a claim to being the pioneer in this field. I'm particularly amused that both France and Brazil claim Alberto Santos-Dumont as their own. Failure is an orphan.

When I visited Portugal, I asked one of the professors, "What is it that students in Portugal are taught is Portugal's greatest contribution to humanity?"

The professor had to stop and think for a while before formulating an answer.

"Portugal has not fared very well of late economically. Our best years were long ago. I would say that our greatest contribution was our accomplishments during the Age of Discoveries."

My question to you, dear reader, is to tell us what students in your country are taught are your country's greatest achievements, or alternatively, what students believe them to be. These beliefs need not be based in fact. I'm more interested in what it is that people want you to believe whether or not it's actually true.

For starters, here's my list of what students are taught (or end up believing) are the great accomplishments of the United States:

  • Democracy (even though it existed for millennia prior, and some might argue whether what we have today still counts as one)
  • Powered flight (The Wright Brothers)
  • The telephone (Alexander Graham Bell)
  • The light bulb, phonograph, and motion pictures (Thomas Edison)
  • The camera (George Eastmann)
  • The elevator (Elisha Otis)
  • The automobile (Henry Ford)

Many of these are contested, and two of them are flat-out wrong: Elisha Otis did not invent the elevator, but he made them popular in the United States thanks to safety improvements. Similarly, Henry Ford did not invent the automobile but he made them popular and affordable in the United States by using an assembly line.

Comments (202)
  1. Stewart says:

    In Britain we are taught that Alexander Graham Bell was Scottish. We’re also taught that democracy was our idea, although for the reasons cited above it obviously isn’t.

    A popular one here is John Logie Baird’s television.

  2. ghbyrkit says:

    And of course the Brits know that Mr Swan invented the light bulb.  His bulbs have bayonet bases, rather than the screw-in base that we have in North America.  I have visited the Museum of Science (in London, UK, naturally) where there is a considerable exhibit of his work.  And a few jibes at the Americans for thinking it was Edision.  I’m also reminded of a ‘joke’ that the Soviets invented the telegraph, based on a farmer finding wires in his field, and also the radio, based on a different farmer NOT finding wires in his field…

  3. Stewart says:

    Also in Britain, there is the computer which was invented by either Charles Babbage or Bletchley Park.

    George Stevenson is often credited with railways.

  4. Mark Baker says:

    I’m British, and I’m sure I was told that Edison invented the light bulb. I didn’t learn about Swan until I was much older.

  5. BA says:

    Actually, saying that Ford invented the automobile is just an invitation to the pedants who will say that Ford actually invented the modern assembly line.

    People tend to muddle it later in life when it isn’t so important.

  6. William says:

    Iceland invented end rhyme (last word in sentence one, rhymes with last word in sentence three).  Höfuðlausnir, Egill Skallagrímsson.  Also, Iceland wrote the first book on grammar, and was the first European country to write in it’s own language (and not Latin).

  7. andy says:

    Norway has two inventions that we are very, very proud of:

    • the cheese slicer (not the cheese cutter which uses a wire) by Thor Bjørklund in 1927.
    • binder by Johan Vaaler, first patented in 1901. Actually this is a myth, according to Wikipedia, since binders already existed before his invention.

    However, Norwegians have done much bigger contributions then these inventions. One is the Birkeland-Eyde process to make nitrogen (this patent was the starting point for Norsk Hydro). Another is the Simula programming language by Ole-Johan Dahl and Kristen Nygaard of the Norwegian Computing Center, which modern object-oriented programming languages (e.g., C++, Java and C#) are based on. Probably a lot of nice offshore oil inventions as well…

  8. James says:

    For the United States: television, the Internet, and the cellular telephone. I think many Americans would claim the World-Wide Web (even though it was invented in Switzerland) as a result of Mosaic/Netscape. (This is similar to crediting Henry Ford with the invention of the automobile.)

  9. mikeb says:

    > In Britain we are taught … that democracy was our idea

    John Locke does not get enough credit – much of the inspiration for America’s revolutionary ideas came from his writings.  "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a nearly plagiarized quote of Locke’s "life, liberty and estate (property)".  The key idea – that these are natural rights – was expounded by Locke.  He should be better known in America.

    Though much of Locke’s writing were done while he was living in Holland…

  10. A. Skrobov says:

    Israel boasts creating ICQ and PHP.

  11. gedoe says:

    here in The Netherlands

    Light bulb => Philips (not true..)

    CD Player  => Philips (this one actually is true, although they needed Sony also)

    Telescope => Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (not true, he was the first to observe bacteria)

    Press (you know the thing that makes books) =>  Laurens

    making land out of water => every single dutchman that ever lived :)

    of course we still claim anything created by Dijkstra as he was dutch.

  12. Pi says:

    In Greece I was also taught that Greeks invented democracy. Other than that Greeks are supposed to have laid the groundwork for the development of philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology and pretty much every other greek named thing as a science (except for economics).

    Greeks claim to have organized the first olympic games some 2800 years ago. And back then there was some guy named Homer whose stories are still read today occasionally. He was also the template for the creation of a character in the Simpsons.

    The sad thing is that my compatriots often think they are cool by default because of these things and they don’t have to accomplish anything by themselves.

  13. John says:

    In the United States we believe that Thomas Crapper invented the toilet, mostly because it would be hilarious.

  14. Jamie says:

    Canada takes credit for the telephone, basketball, Superman, BlackBerrys, trivial pursuit, 5-pin bowling, anti-gravity suits, electric light bulb, electric organ, music synthesizer, television system, television camera, wireless radio, and the zipper.

    You’re welcome.


  15. Marc says:

    I find it interesting how the US and UK history books portray WWII. I grew up hardly knowing that the US ‘helped’, but on the other side of the pond, you would think that the US single-handledly won the battle.

  16. Dan says:

    Sweden is pretty proud of Dynamite (Alfred Nobel), and the safety match.

  17. mvadu says:

    In India, during early Maths classes we were taught that our greatest contribution to Maths is Zero(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero) And Raman effect.

  18. bahbar says:

    I am French… Let’s see:

    • photography (niepce)

    • movies (freres lumiere)

    • balloons (Freres montgolfiers)

    • metric system

    • beheadings (just kidding)

  19. Spain’s best ones are: mops and chupachups.

  20. Rajbeer Dhatt says:

    Funny – the first thing I think of is the Apollo program / Moon landings. Not an invention like most of the others, but an achievement nonetheless.

  21. Mike Dimmick says:

    Eastman may have invented dry photographic plates and camera film, but William Fox Talbot was taking pictures of Reading, UK in 1843, before Eastman was even born. The inventor of photography was probably Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (although that’s from Wikipedia).

  22. Steve McLeod says:

    New Zealand:

    First person to conquer Mt Everest: Edmund Hillary

    First person to split the atom: Ernest Rutherford (although the Brits claim him as one of theirs because he was living in the UK at the time)

    Both these guys are on our banknotes.

  23. john says:

    no other country can come close to claiming a moon trip.

  24. Brian Hjøllund says:

    A. Skrobov: Actually, PHP would be more or less danish. The guy who invented it is from Greenland with a danish name at least. :) But the Zend engine is, to my knowledge, from Israel. So you’re partially right.

  25. I’d like to add a third country to list of those who have claimed Alexander Graham Bell as their own.  In Canada, we were taught that the inventor of the telephone was a Canuck.

  26. Harriv says:

    Finland: Linux, sauna, Nokia, Molotov cocktail, personal heart rate monitors, diving computer, orange coloured scissors.

  27. puls200 says:

    ze germans:

    • printing presses for books

    • jet-powered aircraft

  28. mvadu says:

    And talking about the bulb, I remember watching a program about Tesla, who cam up with his own Incandescent light bulb, when Edison questioned usage of his bulbs on Tesla’s AC lines, Tesla came up with his version of bulb with nodes coming out, with out using Edison’s patented screw design.

  29. Darryl says:

    Besides the list Jamie provided above, Canada also tends to boast of the War of 1812, staking a claim as the only country in history to have won a war against the United States. The simplified version of the story tends to be "The Americans invaded us, we fought back, pushed them out of our country, kept going until we made it to Washington, burned down the White House, and went back home."

    Oh, and hockey also "belongs" to Canada. And a more modern Canadian invention is IMAX films.

  30. Magnus Falk says:


    Gustaf de Laval – de Laval nozzle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Laval_nozzle

    The same guy also invented the milk separator.

  31. Here in brazil, the most known claim is that Alberto Santos Dumont “invented the airplane”.

    However we have a more recent example: people are claiming that the Indiana Jones hat was designed by a brazilian: http://www.aboutsaopaulo.com/news/culture/indiana-jones-hat-is-made-in-sao-paulo/ I didn’t check the claim carefully, but it  simply <i>doesn’t look true</i> to me.

    Other brazilian invention claims (I don’t know if each one is true or not):

    – Alberto Santos Dumont invented the wristwatch

    – A brazilian (Nélio Nicolai) invented the phone caller ID technology (known in brazil as “bina”)

    – Photography, by a French-Brazilian (Hercules Florence)

    – Typewriter, by Francisco João de Azevedo

    – Hot air balloon, by Bartolomeu de Gusmão

    – Chest photofluorography, by Manuel Dias de Abreu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chest_photofluorography

  32. Raziell says:

    Electronic Television was invented by Mafre von Ardenne. (Germany)

    First fully programmable computer -> Konrad Zuse (Germany)

    Automobile -> Carl Benz (Germany)

    First full democracy was etablished in France.

    Telephone was invented by many people… Bell was the only one with enough economical skills to sell it.

    LASER -> Theodore Maiman (USA)

    Rockets -> Werner v. Braun (Germany)

    Coffee Filters -> Melitta Bentz (Germany)

    AirBag -> Daimler Benz (Germany)

    ASPIRIN -> Germany

    BEER :) -> Germany

    The printing of Books -> Johannes Gutenberg (Germany)

    Chipcards -> Jürgen Dethloff und Helmut Gröttrup (Germany)

    Diesel Engine -> Germany

    Electric Generator -> Werner von Siemens (Germany)

    HARIBO -> Germany

    First water based lotion (Nivea) -> Germany

    Helicopter -> Germany

    Jeans -> Levi Strauss (Germany)

    nuclear fission -> Otto Hahn (Germany)

    motor cycle -> Daimler (Germany)

    MP3 -> Fraunhofer-Institute (Germany)

    Periodic System of Elements -> Julius Lothar Meyer (Germany)

    birth control pill -> former Schering AG (Gerany)

    electronic turntable -> Emil Berliner (Germany)

    christian reformatiin ;) -> Martin Luther (Germany)

    X-Ray -> Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (Germany)

    Social laws -> OTTO VON BISMARCK (Germany)

    Tram/Cityrail -> WERNER VON SIEMENS (Germany)

    audiotape -> FRITZ PFLEUMER (Germany)

    vacuum -> OTTO VON GUERICKE (Germany)

    toothpaste -> OTTOMAR HEINSIUS VON MAYENBURG (Germany)

    ignition plug/sparkplug -> ROBERT BOSCH (Germany)

  33. Mark says:

    Britain – the Jet Engine (Frank Whittle)

  34. Chris says:

    In the U.K, we’re pretty much convinced that we were instrumental in the creation of the U.S.A.

    … and the sandwich, or course.

  35. Raziell says:

    Ok, in fact 2 Jet-Engine Designs were create by the same time in Britain and Germany.

  36. Rob says:

    Britain again:

    • Representative democracy, not democracy as such, although even that’s obviously debatable
    • The computer, as mentioned above

    • The jet engine

    • The hovercraft

    • half-shares in calculus

    • the first moving picture was shot in Leeds, West Yorkshire, though by a Frenchman (so we’re not responsible for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle).

    We generally talk less about the concentration camp, which we gave to the world in the Boer War.

    Incidentally, Fox-Talbot may have taken photos of Reading, but his most famous ones were of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire.

  37. Brazil:

    Raymond already mentioned that, but we are taught that Alberto Santos Dumont is the inventor of the airplane. I just heard of Wright brothers much much later, and not at school.

    Things that we are not taught at school but I’m proud of are:

    • caller id

    • Lua programming language

    • Pelé :-)

  38. Dan says:

    It’s always hilarious watching these debates play out in Wikipedia too.

    "John Doe was an Italian-born[1] Jew[2] of Dutch[3] and Lithuanian[4] descent who was raised in Canada[5] and lived in Argentina for several years as an adult[6]. He is perhaps best known for inventing the belly-button-lint remover[citation required]."

  39. Yah yah yah says:

    no other country can come close to claiming a moon trip.

    Not true, maaan. We had hallucinogenics in the 60s, as well.


  40. Yah yah yah says:

    ze germans:

    Towels, sunbeds for the reserving of.



    • Pelé :-)

    Hrrmph. Okay, you win.

  41. JS Bangs says:

    For Romania, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that we defeated the Turks over and over, and thus kept the Ottomans from raping and pillaging their way all the way to France. So we like to take credit for the survival of Western Europe.

    Also, the airplane, via Trajan Vuia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traian_Vuia).

    Plus, everything in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=84PUzYeKrW0

  42. Nemo says:


     computer (Z3), programming languages (Plankalkül) (Konrad Zuse);

     calculus, binary numbers (Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz);

     automobile (Karl Benz);

  43. Ens says:

    I too will make no attempt at verifying accuracy.

    In addition to most of the above claims, I remember school instilling me with Canadian claims to wireless radio including, especially Trans-Atlantic communications in schools; the CanadArm, the Manned Lunar Lander, advanced jetfighter technology (up to the Avro Arrow), and mobile air conditioning (as in car A/C), Plexiglas, Paint rollers, a particularly useful form of commercial nuclear technology, Walkie-Talkies, and most importantly of all, Television.

    In this field, a claim to Java is also sometimes made at higher levels of schooling.

    I’ve always been fascinated by the claims to Bell’s work.  Born in Scotland, did his major work in Canada, moved and filed for patent in the States, and insisted he would not be a hyphenated American.  Although he spent half of each year in Canada in a place they named after their old home in Scotland.

    A few more abstract "inventions" (like Democracy for the US) include:

    Public Healthcare

    The Universal Declaration of Rights and Freedoms


    TIME ITSELF (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandford_Fleming)

  44. Zheng Hua says:

    Comon, no Chinese Raymond reader in 1.5 hours?! Where are all the Chen families?

    We were taught at nausea about the "4 Great Inventions":

    • compass -> ? BC? definitely also invented elsewhere independently
    • gunpowder -> ? ~1000AD, probably also invented elsewhere independently

    • paper -> Cai Lun ~100AD

    • movable type -> Bi Sheng ~1000AD

    What can we claim for modern time? Nothing comes to mind, what a shame.

  45. alip says:

    I think the Scots win hands down:

    How the Scots Invented the Modern World… and Everything in It


  46. daniel says:

    Scott Berkun (ex project manager at Microsoft) has written an excellent book titled "The Myths of Innovation" which explores this topic thoroughly. In his book Scott attempts to debunk common misbeliefs and identify from where ideas actually come from.

    A number of lectures which Scott gave on this topic are available on Youtube.

    Lecture at Google


    Lecture at Carnegie Mellon


  47. e.v.e says:

    Russia — register allocation via graph coloring =)

  48. Ray Trent says:

    The U.S.’s greatest achievement was the atomic bomb, which has saved more lives than penicillin… so far.

  49. Joe Dietz says:

    We "won" two world wars and went to the moon.

  50. Chris L says:

    Canada is also really proud having been the destination of the Underground Railroad

  51. LS says:

    The Australian’s are obviously still asleep, so here we are some highlights:

    • Surf lifesaving reel
    • Flying Doctor Service

    • Refrigerated ships

    • Hills Hoist clothesline (rotary clothesline, probably their most famous!)

    • plastic disposable syringe

    • anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes

    • long-wearing contact lenses

    • inflatable escape slides used on aircraft

    • Black boxes for planes

    • dual flush toilets

    After a few beers they will also tell you they invented the meat pie, which I doubt very much.

    source: http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/inventions/

  52. alex says:


    1. Periodic Table of elements – Mendeleev

    2. Vodka – Mendeleev. It did exist before, but it is widely believed that Mendeleev came up with perfect recipie that is in use now.

    3. Space flight – Tsiolkovsky

    4. Nuclear bomb.

  53. mvadu says:

    "atomic bomb, which has saved more lives than penicillin"

    Excuse me..!! can you please explain how..

    Google is not helping me to find what you are saying.

  54. roastbeef says:

    von Braun didn’t invent rockets… he merely improved upon what many were doing before hand.

    Here in the US Robert Goddard was doing lots of experiments with liquid rockets long before von Braun.

  55. In Israel we pretty much take credit for every invention ever made by any Jewish person in the 5000 year history of the religion.

    Also, even though it’s not inventions, we celebrate the fact that we survived (which for us is the same as "won") the wars of 1947, 1956, 1967, 1969, 1973, etc. while mostly being heavily outnumbered.

  56. DanielMoth says:

    Raymond, I cannot believe that you added "Democracy" to the list.

    Like Pi pointed out, it was invented in Greece. ( I also don’t know what Raziel is smoking, but it must be good stuff ).

    Greeks were building the Parthenon (which still stands today) when most people’s ancestors were living in caves.

    Again like Pi points out, Greeks’ ancestors did so much for civilisation, that modern day Greeks feel they can just put their feet up and rest (for 2-3 thousand years) :-)

  57. eff-five says:

    >John Locke does not get enough credit – much of the inspiration for America’s revolutionary ideas came from his writings.  "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is a nearly plagiarized quote of Locke’s "life, liberty and estate (property)".  The key idea – that these are natural rights – was expounded by Locke.  He should be better known in America.

    Along those lines of reasoning you might as well go back to Persia’s Cyrus the Great as an early proponent of Human Rights.

    I wonder if Iranians claim the invention of human rights (or natural rights as Locke put it).

  58. Eric Lippert says:

    Also, I am reminded of something that happened to me many years ago.

    American Gate Agent: Where are you going today?

    Me: Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto.

    GA, mockingly: "Lester B. Pearson?" Geez, who do they name these airports after anyway?

    Me: When he was prime minister of Canada he was instrumental in the creation of the maple leaf flag. And he was the first Canadian to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for his creation of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces. But I know what you mean. There’s some airport in New York called "John F. Kennedy Airport", which is also named after some guy who probably did something important.

    GA: Uh, yeah. Here are your boarding passes.

  59. Ray Trent says:

    ""atomic bomb, which has saved more lives than penicillin"

    Excuse me..!! can you please explain how.."

    It’s mostly a philosophical point (or even a joke… the distinction is a fine one when Discordians are involved), but the theory is it’s prevented at least a couple of devastating World Wars since the middle of last century that otherwise would have killed perhaps as much as 100 million people.

    In any event, it’s only fair for the US to claim it as our own, regardless… basic responsibility.

  60. JDiller says:

    "Canada claims the telephone because Bell lived in Canada at the time he was inventing it; seems reasonable to me"

    True, but we also claim Basketball and Superman, which were invented by Canadian guys while they were in the U.S.  The logic is inconsistent.

  61. Ricardo Reyes says:


    • The ballpen, altough it was invented by an european inmigrant. He’s name was Biro, so here we call the ballpen "birome"

    • The bus (as in public transit, with fixed routes, etc)

  62. jp says:

    Czech Republic: Contact lens (invented by Otto Wichterle)

  63. Mihai says:


    • Henri Coanda, the jet engine. Frank Whittle was writing papers in 1926, Coanda was flying a jet in 1910. Also the Coanda effect.


  64. tcliu says:

    I’d say for Sweden: The welfare state. And if outright invention is not claimed, then the claim is to the best implementation.

    As an aside, I’d say just about every claim is bogus – inventions are based on previous progress and are always incremental. Even revolutionary discoveries such as Einstein’s are based on the current state of the art.

  65. Patrick L says:

    I used to live in Hong Kong, and I could confirm what Zheng Hua said: we are taught that we invented the 4 great things: compass, paper, firepowder, movable type.

    • Compass: in some far-away BC, originally used by a king to defeat another king in foggy area, in a form of a cart hosting a statue, which had its finger always pointing South. That is why in Chinese, compass is named "Pointing-South Needle".
    • Paper: some kind of primitive form of paper existed before, but Cai invented the way to make paper out of wood, which finalized the common method of paper manufacturing.

    • Firepowder: this story is funny. Chinese folks back then tried to make medicine (imagining they could make immortal drugs), probably using something highly flammable (like sulfer), thus after injuries, discovered firepowder. It was not made as weapon until firepowder has been introduced to western world, and Europeans improved firepowder to be suitable for military use. Then, Mongolians used it in battles, including against China (uh-oh!).

    • Movable Type: not much of interesting story here. However, the movable type system made by Johannes Gutenberg seemed to be an independent creation, not influenced by the Chinese system.

    Something may not be really "invention", but Chinese claim to have a lot of things influenced western world before European surpassed Chinese, including:

    • Math formulas

    • Mechanic device to observe astronomy

    • Earthquake detection device (a huge jar with 8 dragon mouth holding balls. This was claimed as a Chinese invention around 200AD)

    • Forensic science

    • Medical knowledges, notably a book about medical values of different herbs

  66. Garry Trinder says:

    An important question here is "When determining who invented something, how much importance to you give to ‘making it work’?"

    For example, many people had the idea (and even prototypes for electric light bulbs before Edison — except they would all burn out in a few minutes.  Edison’s design was the first to last long enough to be practical in use.

    Similar with Otis & elevators.  The basic idea of elevators goes back to the Deus ex Machina of ancient Greece, but not until Otis were they safe enough to be used to carry human on a daily basis.

    From here we can move on to the question of "Democracy".  While the US can’t claim the initial concept of Democracy, "Democracy on a national level as an alternative to Monarchy after Independence through Revolution" is our, and would seem to be the important part.

  67. joel8360 says:

    "no other country can come close to claiming a moon trip."

    Neither can the U.S, today.

    I’m going to go weep now.

  68. dghdhg says:

    "von Braun didn’t invent rockets… he merely improved upon what many were doing before hand."

    Sorry, but the Germans were the first to invent and unfortunately use rockets (London).

    The technology for space flights was based on German rocket technology. Both Russia and US have used knowledge and researchers from Germany after WW2.

  69. KTC says:

    China, as Raymond would probably know, claim compass, gunpowder, printing, and paper as its Four Great Inventions of ancient China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Great_Inventions_of_ancient_China). Those even a primary school child would be able to tell you.

    Re the WWW in post by James (#8791649): Brits would like to remind everyone that Sir TB-L is British to just happened to have been working at CERN at the time.

  70. Barvins says:

    Latvia claims Minox spy camera by Valters Caps.


  71. KTC says:

    With China, there’s also silk (and its associated Silk Road).

  72. KenW says:

    @DanielMoth: "modern day Greeks feel they can just put their feet up and rest (for 2-3 thousand years) :-)"

    Isn’t that what they’ve been doing for the last two thousand years or so? :-)

  73. gjkgjk says:

    @tcliu: Definitely, it is very hard to say who invented something since rarely it is totally independent and hard to determine where the new invention starts or if it is an improvement, or similar people had similar ideas.

    Anyway, even if, why should we be proud of what people of our country did, if it weren’t ourselves how achieved it? It is not as if just having the same nationality as somebody famous says anything about yourself.

    It is fun to argue, but not very rational nor important.

  74. Erwin says:

    In the Philippines:

    1. Agapito Flores invented the fluorescent lamp
    2. We figured out how to make a car run from water

    3. The moon buggy used during the lunar landings

    Most of them are here:


  75. Keith Bertelsen says:

    In school, I never learned that Ford invented the automobile. My teachers always made it a point to note that he invented the (modern) assembly line.

    It took the History channel to point out to me the effect the (modern) assembly line had on warfare.

    Wasn’t ARPAnet originally American?

    Don’t forget barbed wire! That’s honest-to-goodness American!

  76. Michael says:


    Red Cross (obviously)

    World Wide Web

    A whole bunch of theories by Albert Einstein


    etc etc

  77. roastbeef says:


    The ancient chinese had solid fueled rockets (of the toy variety), but the American Robert Goddard was the first to really experiment with liquid fuel rockets. He also came up with the first practical rocket nozzle that boosted efficiencies to nontrivial percentages.

    von Braun and his fellow Germans in Peenemunde (spelling?) certainly was the first to make longer range guided rockets.  And it’s also true that the Russian and US space programs continued to use German expertise… indeed the US military made a special push to get to the German rocketry guys before the Russians got to them.

  78. Gavino says:

    I think the most disputed invention is the telephone. USA and Canada claim it, France has Bourseul, Germany has Reis, here in Italy we have Antonio Meucci, which is the real inventor, of course ;).

    Off the top of my head, other claimed Italian inventions are:

    • monocular (Galileo Galilei, but actually a Dutch invention);
    • the scientific method (Galileo Galilei)

    • Icecream, pizza, and a variety of other dishes;

    • republic and representative democracy (Rome);

    • nuclear fission (Enrico Fermi);

    • banks;

    • universities;

    • motorways;

    • arch (in architecture);

    • Fresco (painting);

    and of course all the stuff you can attribute to Leonardo da Vinci.

  79. Piaskal says:

    In Poland the things thought in schools would be (in random order):

    1. Battle of Grunwald (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Grunwald)

    2. Breaking enigma code, also claimed by other countries. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptanalysis_of_the_Enigma#Polish_solution)

    3. F. Chopin and his music.

    4. Pope John Paul II

    5. Maria Sklodowska-Curie – discovery of radioactivity, sometimes also claimed by France. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Curie)

    6. Nicolas Copernicus – heliocentric theory.

    7. Ignacy Łukasiewicz – invented kerosene lamp

  80. Steve C says:

    Canada: In addition to the above comments, we’re very proud of our superior Robertson screwdriver http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robertson_screwdriver and go to extreme lengths to use one over a Phillips (it strips and can’t handle much torque) or slotted (useless for almost everything).

  81. I believe that the credit for both the first artificial satellite of Earth and the first manned spaceflight goes to Russia.

    Also, Tetris is said to be invented by Alexey Pajitnov.

    Funny thing is that in school I was taught the steam locomotive and radio was invented by Cherepanov brothers and Popov, respectively.

    P.S. It should be noted that Russia conducted an experiment that involved maintaining a  communism regime on a sixth part of the world for some 74 years.

  82. Silverhalide says:

    Without infringing on anyone’s sense of chauvanism, I’d like to call out some interesting, ah, coincidences:

    Michael writes "Theories by Albert Einstein, LSD".

    Alex  writes "Periodic Table of elements,… Vodka"

  83. Silverhalide says:

    Without infringing on anyone’s sense of chauvanism, I’d like to call out some interesting, ah, coincidences:

    Michael writes "Theories by Albert Einstein, LSD".

    Alex  writes "Periodic Table of elements,… Vodka"

  84. Wesha says:

    Steam engine (railroad) (1820): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherepanov

    Caterpillar tractor (steam powered) (1877): Fyodor Blinov (sorry, no English language wiki)

  85. paa says:

    more from Greece:

    Pap Test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pap_test) and the two Nobel Prizes in Literature (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giorgos_Seferis http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odysseas_Elytis).

    History textbooks do not hesitate to point that Greece shaped the outcome of World War II, by repelling the Italian attack, causing thw German intervention and thus mortally delaying the invasion of USSR. Left-leaning textbooks apply the same logic to the Greek Resistance. Supposedly, the disruption of the supply lines due to the blow-up of Gorgopotamos bridge sealed the fate of Afrika Korps.

    Needless to say that the canonical spontaneous answer is "Euro 2004 Cup!" :-)

  86. Jim says:

    In modern China, Mao really refined the principlas (sixteen characters) of Gorilla War, which has been followed by all the world

  87. Niels says:

    I’m surprised noone from Denmark have written yet.

    Some names are:

    • Hans Christian Andersen (fairy tales, not really an invention but they’re well known!)

    • Tycho Brahe – collected huge amounts of astronomical data

    • Niels Bohr – various scientific work, can put a bit of claim on the nuclear bomb…

    • Peter Naur – Backus-Naur notation and the Algol language. He also laid the foundation for datalogi (computing science) in Denmark.

  88. Messiant R says:

    Belgium claims the invention of fries, and don’t dare to dispute it ..

    Also roller skates and the saxophone

  89. Henrik says:

    Just to add a two Danish guys that most of us should be familiar with:

    Bjarne Stroustrup (C++)

    Anders Hejlsberg (PolyPascal, Delphi, C#)

  90. Keith says:

    Britain – the vindaloo (a very hot curry).

  91. David Walker says:

    Britain invented the United States of America!  By taxing without representation, and so on…

    I had a middle-school teacher in Houston insist that Percival Lowell "discovered" Pluto, and marked my test answer wrong, since I answered with Clyde Tombaugh.  I actually knew Clyde Tombaugh, since he lived in my birth town.

    Percival Lowell predicted its existence, and Clyde Tombaugh found it, so the question might be ambiguous.  Mr. Tombaugh was given the opportunity to name it, and the PL in the Pluto name that he picked, is an homage to Mr. Lowell.

  92. To the Greeks who comment here: If you do this too, I ask of you – Please stop taking credit for everything all the time.

    I was sitting on a three hour flight next to a Swede with a Greek father and all he did THE ENTIRE FLIGHT was talk about how everything was invented by the Greeks (and how the Turks suck). He even insisted that my first name (which comes from the Bible, mind you) had Greek origins.

    Again, just to be clear – this is not a generalization of all Greeks.

  93. Charlie says:

    The Scots are taught that we invented pretty much everything useful.

    Telephone (Alexander Graham Bell didn’t take out US citizenship until after he invented the telephone, even if he did steal the patent)

    Television (John Logie Baird produced the first working TV, first colour TV etc)

    Fax machine

    Pneumatic tyre

    Waterproof coat (Mackintosh)


    Adhesive postage stamp

    Percussion rifle

    Stirling engine

    Kelvin temperature scale

    Sterile operating theatres

    Asphalt road surface (tarmac, or Tar McAdam)


    High pressure condensing steam engine





    and I’m sure there are a few more that we claim, whatever anyone says!

  94. Josh says:


    How does Russia claim the nuclear bomb?  That was fairly clearly a U.S. invention.  My recollection is that Russia, while partway to independent development of the bomb, ended up taking a shortcut by copying the results from British and American scientists after the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  There is no indication that the Soviets were particularly close to completing an atomic bomb at the time they began duplicating U.S. discoveries.

  95. Garry Trinder says:

    @Keith Bertelsen:"I never learned that Ford invented the automobile. My teachers always made it a point to note that he invented the (modern) assembly line."

    Which was actually invented by Eli Whitney to build gun used to fight the Revolutionary War. Whitney’s other invention was the Cotton Gin, which made growing cotton profitable which made slavery on cotton farms useful.  IOW, he armed one war & started another…..

  96. Eric Duran says:

    Ahh… I’ll bite it. Mexico claims the invention of

    • Tequila  (hey, the Russians mentioned vodka!)

    • Zero: Some Indian guy already pointed to a Wikipedia article where it grants India the honor, but for all we (Mexicans) know, the Mayans where the first guys to give it a glyph (although the Wikipedia says the Olmecs did it first)

    • A calendar close enough to our modern 365- days Gregorian calendar (again, blame the Mayans)

    • Color television: In 1946, Guillermo González Camarena sent the first color transmission that was "backward-compatible" with B/W TV. Other color TV demostrations were gave before (mainly, Berlin in 1939 and CBS/RCA in 1940) but I’d assume that his was the first back-compat and "easy/cheap" to retro-fit in cameras. I’ll also assume his transmission was using electronic color not mechanical color (since the first [mechanical] color tranmission was in 1928 by a Scottish!)

  97. Morten says:

    Re. Denmark: we define ourselves mostly by having lost wars against Sweden, Britain and Germany (twice – but we almost didn’t fight the last time so that may not count). Oh, and we quite fancy that "hygge" is our invention too.

  98. Eric Duran says:

    Oh, by the way, an important one for the Swedes that they haven’t noted is the Centigrade temperature scale (invented by Celsius).

  99. TLKH says:


  100. C says:

    Otis, Ford, Edison, etc. are credited for inventions realized elsewhere before them for the same reason Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering the Americas: when predecessors did it, nothing changed. It’s not the original, but the seminal discovery that’s significant.

  101. Jules says:

    Cornwall (not actually a country, but try telling that to the residents) typically claims the steam engine (Newcomen, c.1710) and the pastie (traditional, delicious).

  102. SRS says:

    England invented hooliganism – this was pioneered by Sir Reginald D’Iolanthe Hooligan of St. Evenage (1816-1862) who famously said "when I come across one of the dirty unwashed lower orders, playing in the foul streets and tenements, I take it upon myself, in the name of King and Country, to smite his nasty pox ridden visage with a stout pole until he screams for mercy and begs me for forgiveness. Come and have a go, if y’think you’re hard enough. Go on I say. I will have satisfaction."

  103. Nawak says:


    • Galois theory (Evariste Galois, shame he died at 20…)

    • Fourier transform (Joseph Fourier)

    • Vaccine for rabies (Louis Pasteur)

    • Discovery of HIV virus (Luc Montagnier)

  104. J says:

    More from the US, brought to you by the Arizona public education system:

    The cotton gin – Eli Whitney

    Peanut Butter – (apparently not George Washington Carver according to Wikipedia, but some dude in St. Lois, which still makes it American)

    (I still don’t understand why it was so important that I knew who the inventor of the cotton gin was)

  105. Ulric says:

    The discussion above about CANADA and Superman stem from the "Canadian Heritage Minutes", a series of commercials that have been airing for two decades on Canadian television.

    Here is the list of these moments, and therefore the list of invention Canada claims:


  106. Ulric says:

    So as you can tell from that list, Canada does not in fact claim to have invented Superman.

    It merely notes that as a moment in Canada’s history.

  107. mikeb says:

    > He even insisted that my first name (which comes from the Bible, mind you) had Greek origins. <<

    You know that the New Testament was originally written in Greek (just in case that’s the part of the Bible that your name comes from).

  108. Gavino says:

    Wow, this game really draws the crowds… :)

    I’m surprised nobody came up with the microprocessor, invented in the USA by an Italian engineer, Federico Faggin.

    Also, I find amusing how the French even try to get credit for the radio, while the whole world (and the old 2000£ Italian banknote) knows pretty well that Guglielmo Marconi invented it.

  109. George Jansen says:

    I was once having dinner with an in-law and his friends when one of the latter, a Briton referred to the occasion when "the British invented longitude." Obviously this was a slip of the tongue for "a practical and reliable instrument for computing longitude", but we Americans wilfully misunderstood him and gave him a hard time.

    @Pi — why not economics, if you going for credit–Xenophon write a dialogue of that name.

    @William "Also, Iceland … was the first European country to write in it’s own language (and not Latin)." Are you sure? The Anglo-Saxon dialogues mention the first Danish raids on England, which I’d have though occurred before the settlement of Iceland.

  110. dlanod says:

    The three big ones Australians (in my old school at least) actually get taught about are:

    • The stump jump plough
    • The Hills Hoist clothes line

    • The bionic ear

    One of the above posts gives a pretty good list of inventions though.

  111. Roger says:

    In Britain we are also proud of our failures.  We had the second person to reach the South Pole (using the wrong equipment) and they died on the trip back.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Falcon_Scott  See also Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance Antarctic voyage as another successful failure.

    There was also that whole "The sun never sets on the British Empire" thing.  The "innovation" in that was maintaining rule over a wide variety of countries.  For example at its peak Britain ruled India with only 5,000 bureaucrats.  Sadly some of the more despicable acts of history were also invented in the process – see the Boer war at the turn of the 20th century and the Malayan Emergency after WWII.

  112. Paul says:

    For Australians there’s much more.

    The indigenous Australians, for instance, have the boomerang and didgeridoo.

    For Australians in general, we have the Black Box Flight Recorder (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_data_recorder), vegemite (of course), the pacemaker, the cochlear implant, and many many others.

    But in terms of being part of the cultural identity, I would say the boomerang and didgeridoo are big parts of the australian cultural identity, as well as Vegemite, the hills hoist and the two stroke lawn mower (also apparently an Australian invention).

  113. Christian says:

    Would "Autobahn" and Germany be very offensive? ;-)

  114. BTW, the reason that Columbus is still the one everyone turns to on the discovery of North America is because we don’t know the names of the Norsemen who landed on Vinland.

  115. Eric says:

    The best known invention Canada claims would be Insulin.

    A few other ones off the top of my head: (some great, some not, many disputed)

    * Telephone

    * Basketball

    * Snowmobile

  116. @mikeb, I’m Jewish, so that part doesn’t really count for me. ;)

    Which, in the spirit of bold claims, reminds me that we also invented monotheistic religion :P

  117. dmz says:

    Piaskal: "5. Maria Sklodowska-Curie"

    Laurent: "immigrants are claimed by France (e.g. Marie Curie)"

    Funny thing, names are. In Poland we are taught her name was Sklodowska-Curie (maiden first, then husband’s), everywhere else she is known simply as Curie. I thought until today it’s our issue, we are wrong, she used her husband’s name, enough already, right? Well, no: today I saw Nobel Prize diploma (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Dyplom_Sklodowska.jpg). Obviously she used the double name herself. Yay! We are not such chauvinist after all…

  118. afroulas says:

    we turks claim to have invented yoghurt.  one turkish minister even claimed that it was "the first case of genetic engineering in history". although two things are highly disputable, in my opinion: that the people who invented it were turks in the modern sense, and the stuff they invented was yoghurt in the modern sense.

  119. Gabest says:

    The Perpetuum Mobile has an amazing number of inventors:


  120. Eric Lippert says:

    * His point is probably that a-bombing Japan ended the second world war much earlier than it would have otherwise, and that the balance of terror during the cold war deterred full-scale land wars.  

    This argument ignores that reasoning from and about counterfactuals is inherently nonsensical.

    * Canada claims the telephone because Bell lived in Canada at the time he was inventing it; seems reasonable to me.

    * Canada is also proud of that robot arm on the space shuttle, aka the CANADARM. After all, that’s what the space shuttle is _for_ — moving stuff around with that arm!  What else could it be for?

  121. NicCl says:

    New Zealand was also first with universal women’s suffrage.

    And we were the first non-US country to successfully defend the America’s Cup (but not everyone here thinks that’s a major contribution to humanity)

  122. The danish also invented extortion money (Danegæld). Basically telling England and France to pay us lots of money or we’d rob them.

  123. A Randomly Generated String says:

    Back in ’99 I was on the wrong side of the pond and happened to go to the Avoncroft Museum (http://www.avoncroft.org.uk – if you haven’t been to Avoncroft and you live in the UK or your current meatspace coordinates include bits of the UK, run, don’t walk to your nearest BritRail terminal and go there) where they have (had, at least) a great exibition on telephones (Yes, they have a TARDIS).  The caretaker took great delight in informing me that the automatic telephone switch was invented by an American Undertaker in Kansas City, MO (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strowger_switch).

    That has to be the greatest American invention (because we can call you to tell you than we’re going to drop an Atom bomb on you, or invade your country, or deny your request for military assistance, whereas before it would come as a surprise).

  124. Sarjav says:

    I’m pretty sure mud was invented here in Elbonia.

  125. Nick says:

    I’m proud to live in the US, home to American Cheese and Kraft® Real® Cheese™ Product®™.

    That and the Internet.  The WWW and HTML may have started at CERN, but the good old ARPANET is home-grown.

  126. Roger says:

    New Zealand:

    Often claims flight, pre-dating the Wright brothers by a gentleman called Richard Pierce.

    I think this claim is genuinely thought to be possibly the truth.

    Peter Jackson (The LOTR Director), sort of diluted this by using Pierce’s flight as the central tenant of his movie Forgotton Silver which is a spoof historical movie that purports all sorts of New Zealand ‘we did it first’ moments.

    A highly entertaining movie that fooled a lot of people apparently, but sad if it does indeed dilute debate about Pierce vs Wright Brothers vs whomever else.

  127. Anando says:

    Alexander Graham Bell was Canadian. He was born in scotland, however, he spent a large portion of his life in NS, Canada. He was definitely not american in anyways.

    On another note, the great Indian mathematician, Aryabhatta invented the ‘0’…without which there wouldnt have been any binary math or computers or anything which depends on software :o))

  128. Laurent says:

    Accomplishments of France as taught to students, or that students end up believing:

    * Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

    * Radio (Edouard Branly)

    * The United States (Lafayette)

    * Microcomputer (Micral)

    * TGV

    * Vaccination (Louis Pasteur)

    * Steam engine (Denis Papin)

    Naturally of lot of this conveniently ignores history, e.g. the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, Shinkansen, etc.

    As is typical, immigrants are claimed by France (e.g. Marie Curie), but French people who emigrated still count (e.g. Benoît Mandelbrot, Philippe Kahn).

    Chauvinism sucks :-(

  129. William Woody says:

    Um, we’re not a democracy; never were. We’re a liberal constitutional republic. While the later is popularly confused for the former, we’ve never been the former.

  130. Gabe says:

    In the US I learned that Eadweard Muybridge invented the motion picture. Although he was born and died in England, he was in the US for most of his career.

  131. JamesW says:


    Vegemite doesn’t count. It is an inferior knock-off of, the original, and still the best, Marmite.

  132. Jalf says:

    I’m surprised not to see World War Two on Raymond’s list.

    That’s something most Americans seem to end up believing that *their* country alone won. Like several entries on the original list, of course reality isn’t that simple, but I’d definitely say it belongs on the list of things that Americans are taught to be proud of, much more so than, say, Ford.

    As for us, in Denmark, I suppose I’ll have to say the vikings. Looting and pillaging most of Europe, and getting to America hundreds of years before Columbus. Again, of course, bits of this is disputed, but it is probably the most noteworthy thing students are taught to be "proud" of here. (Proud of how big and powerful we were, controlling most of Britain, and besieging Paris, not so much of what we did. Nailing people to church doors probably isn’t something most people would be proud of…)

    And like Roger said above, we’re also quite proud of some of our failures. Like, say, losing one of the greatest navies in Europe to the English, and having them burn down our capital afterwards, (And then to recover, planting huge forests to build new ships from in the long term…. just when people start building ships of metal instead of wood), and of course losing huge chunks of lands to Germany and Sweden 100-150 years ago.

    Oh yeah, and C++! Bjarne Stroustrup is from Denmark. So is the guy who invented PHP (as if that’s something to be proud of), and while we’re at it, C#’s Anders Hejlsberg… And some of the people behind Standard ML too.

  133. Canada also won both WW1 and WW2 with our crack shock troops. Because of our performance at Vimy, France gave our country the land around there in perpetuity. Likewise, which country’s troops had the best showing on D-Day?

    F**k yeah Canada!

  134. Norway; apart from the cheese cutter thing and the binder I guess we’re the most proud of our national day (17th of May) where all the kids in Norway attend huge parades. Not a lot of countries celebrate their freedom with a non-military parade.

    Also; we’ve got some of the best looking women in the world, in good company with Sweden and Denmark of course. ;)

  135. Sweden takes credit for:

    Propeller (Ericsson)

    Botany (Linneaus)

    Termometer (Celcius)

    Color Graphics (Håkan Lans)

    Refridgerator (Baltzar von Platen)

    Dynamite (Nobel)

    Adjustable wrench (Johan Petter Johansson)

    and most chemical discoveries before 1850…

  136. Lol Lolovici says:

    "Which, in the spirit of bold claims, reminds me that we also invented monotheistic religion :P"

    Umm, nope, you didn’t. It was a guy named Akhenaten, pharaoh in Egypt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akhenaten) who wanted to snatch power from the high priest. Also the babylonians did something in that direction with Marduk who received the roles of all other gods at some point. Jews know these guys well, there were being enslaved in their respective countries.

    As every human discovery this is based on previous state of the art :).

  137. Zinc says:

    I’m pretty sure that Tim Berners-Lee (UK) invented what we call the World Wide Web.

  138. GregC says:

    Here are two achievements claimed by Slovenia:

    The first space station design by Herman Potočnik: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Potocnik (a valid claim afaik)

    The propeller by Josef Ressel (not really a valid claim: Ressel was Checz and while he lived in Slovenia for some time, he moved all over the former Austro-Hungarian empire)

    Can’t remember anything else, but then, we’re a small nation :)

  139. Joey says:

    In germany we are taught:

    • that an little Austrian Guy invented the Holocaust

    -the Airbag (1971, Mercedes-Benz)

    -Bacteriology (1870, Robert Koch)

    -The first food purity law (1516, WILHELM IV. VON BAYERN for beer)

    -screw anchors (1958, Arthur Fischer)

  140. Naadir Jeewa says:

    Tim Berners Lee is indeed the Greatest Briton Alive (TM).

    I personally like to claim that transport-based climate change originated in Walthamstow, East London, where the world’s first petrol-based internal combustion engine driven car was made. This isn’t widely known.

  141. petike1 says:


    • Janos Irinyi, noiseless and non-explosive match

    • Laszlo Biro, ballpoint pen

    • Oszkar Asboth, helicopter

    • Erno Rubik, Rubik’s Cube

    • Tivadar Puskas, telephone exchange

    • John von Neumann, computer

  142. Indian says:

    "Britain – the vindaloo (a very hot curry)"

    Ha! If you’d said Portugal or even India, I’d have believed you. But Britain? Please… Next you’ll be taking credit for Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala and the Queen’s English, eh wot?

    BTW, Jagadish Chandra Bose had a bit to do with the radio as well…

  143. Sergei Lewis says:

    Russia > everyone always forgets the Lunokhod! http://lunarandplanetaryrovers.com/lunokhod.htm

  144. Will says:

    It’s worth pointing out that Aussies will cheerfully claim any Kiwi Inventor/Discoverer as Australian.

    "What, you mean Sir Edmund Hillary *wasn’t* Australian?"

  145. Alex says:

    @Pi: "The sad thing is that my compatriots often think they are cool by default because of these things and they don’t have to accomplish anything by themselves."

    That is the whole point of chauvinism. You can forget you own crappy self by taking refuge in the group.

    @Omer van Kloeten: "He even insisted that my first name (which comes from the Bible, mind you) had Greek origins."

    No problem there. The christian bible was, in a large extent, invented by Greeks.

  146. Marijne says:

    The one that always sticks in my mind for Northern Ireland is the airplane ejector seat. I don’t know how accurate it is but it’s esoteric enough to be memorable. Certainly I imagine not many people think of anything constructive about NI.

  147. MJP says:


    All the world’s major sports. (We invented them, but nowadays we generously let the rest of the world beat us at them.)

    The industrial revolution. (We invented it, but nowadays…)

  148. jeff robertson says:

    More for the U.S.A.:

    Maybe not so much "democracy", as "Freedom". Nobody was ever "free" anywhere in the world before 1776; and anybody outside the US who happens to be "free", is only so because of US intervention.

    We tend to think that the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th amendment ending slavery in the US was a major advancement in civil rights for the whole world; forgetting how many countries (that is, most of them) had already abolished slavery by then.

    American schoolchildren are not (or at least in my day they were not) generally taught who invented television; I’m not sure why.

    I’m sure that by now, we claim the Internet.

    Inventions also tend to be claimed by ethnic groups within the US. George Washington Carver inventing peanut butter is generally taught during Black History Month. Native Americans are said to have invented federalism.

  149. Countries? How about small towns?

    White River Ontario (population 841) proudly claims to be the origin of Winnie-the-Pooh. Umm… wasn’t A. A. Milne born, lived, and died in England? Yes, but the fictional Winnie-the-Pooh was named after his son Christopher Robin Milne’s teddy bear, which was named after Winnie, a live bear in the  London Zoo, which was donated to the Zoo by Harry Colebourne, who brought the bear overseas from White River, naming it after his hometown of Winnipeg, so clearly the origin of Winnie-the-Pooh is White River. Or Winnipeg.

    I believe Port Wing Wisconsin (population 404) claims to have invented the school "bus" (it as was horse-drawn cart), at least for Wisconsin. You take what you can get.

  150. Skizz says:

    I’m surprised no one from the States has claimed Thomas Midgley Jr’s great contibutions to the world.

    Other UK claims:

    Apple’s resurgence thanks to Mr Ive’s designs


    Going very fast in a car

    Monty Python

    Spaghetti trees

    Also, Mr Babage was quite prolific:

    The cow catcher

    First class post

    Breaking the Vignere cipher

  151. Martin from London says:

    The British invented time. Or more accurately, Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and accurate clocks to measure it with. But the achievement was not inventing it; the achievement was getting the rest of the world to adopt it as well.


    The silly thing about a lot of these claims is that two people in different locations often invented the same thing completely independently of each other. As such a number of things were genuinely invented by a number of different countries.

  152. DysgraphicProgrammer says:

    Well whoever invented Zero, Thanks for nothing!

  153. Glenn S says:

    Norway, always at the forefront of scinece & technology, does of course have a number achievments. The most important of which are:

    A much better paper clip had already been invented in Britain, but he still managed to much of the credit, even though not one of his paper clips was actually manufactured.

    The paper clip still managed to become a nation symbol for Norway, and was worn during WWII as a symbol of resistance to the German occupation and in support of the King and exiled government, since the King’s initials had been banned.

    Digressing further, a middle school in Tennessee, USA started a project, called The Paper Clips Project [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_Clips_Project],  to collect paper clips in an effort to illustrate the huge number of victims in the holocaust. The paper clip was apparently chosen because thhe inventor, Johann Vaaler, was a jew, and because it was worn in support of Jews during WWII. Vaaler was not a Jew, he did not invent the paper clip, and it was not worn in support of the Jews. But hey, don’t let the facts ruin your day.

    Some other notable achievments are:

    • Aerosol Spray – Erik Rotheim [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerosol_spray]

    • Outboard mtoor for small boats – Ole Evinrude [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outboard_motor] Born in Norway, but lived in the USA from the age of five.

    • Simula – Ole-Johan Dahl & Kristen Nygaard [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simula] The first object-oriented programming languages.Hugely influential.  Need I say more?

    • Brunost [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunost] Known in Sweden as "mesost" and North America as "gjetost". The norwegian name literally means "brown cheese", oviously referring to its color, while the North American term means "goat cheese", although the cheese is not necessarily, and usually only partly, made of goat milk.

    • The Scream – Edvard Munch [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream] A series of world-renowned paintings that has been featured extensively in popular culture, most notably the "Scream" horror movies by Wes Craven.

    • Modern Skiing – Sondre Norheim [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sondre_Norheim] The founding father of modern skiing, innovated the skis and popularized disciplines such as slalom and telemark skiing. We proudly proclaim to be born with skis on our legs, yet few actually know how to use them properly. I guess proficiency is not hereditary. It follows naturally that we also must have a female population with very flexible "nether regions", although I have never heard anyone (proudly) proclaiming that.

    • Hardingfele – (Ole Jonsen Jaastad, 1651) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardingfele] Also known as hardanger fiddle, it is pretty much a normal fiddle, but with an extra set of resonating strings.

    • Abel-Ruffini Theorem – Niels Henrik Abel [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abel%E2%80%93Ruffini_theorem] The theorem proves that there is no general solution to fifth-degree and higher polynomial equations.

    • First to reach South Pole and Northe Pole – Roald Amundsen [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Amundsen] He was the first to reach the South Pole and, in contrast to Britain’s Robert F. Scott, actually survived the return to also be the first to reach the North Pole and even return safely from that expedition. There are three previous claims for first arrival at the North Pole, but they are all very much disputed.

    • Discovery of America – Leif Eriksson (son of Eirik the Red) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leif_Eriksson] As far as is known. Ofcourse we know for sure.

    • Nynorsk – Ivar Aasen [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nynorsk] The second official standard language of Norway, created by Ivar Aasen by studing the various Norwegian dialects. This was done because of a dislike of the first official standard language, Bokmål, which is based on the Danish language. And ofcourse noone wants to be associated with the Danes. The language is still only used by ~10% of the population, but is taught to everyone nonetheless. For some strange reason, no other nation ha laid claim on the creation of this language.

    • Troll [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll] Although the Troll is from Norse mythology, we do flaunt it as if it belongs to us. This probably has a lot to do with its popularity in old folk tales, but boosted by Asbjørnsen & Moe’s folk tale collection that helped to preserve and popularize the tales.

    • Peace [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Peace_Index] We proudly lay claim on the invention of peace, since we have a history of neutrality and have been given the task of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize, happily disregarding the fact that Alfred Nobel is Swedish of course. Our history of neutrality might be explained by being so easy to invade, and not so much that we are plain old pussies. We did put up a hell of a fight during WWII, but unofficially.

  154. jcoehoorn says:


    First working integrated circuit (based on a paper published by a brit 6 years earlier, but he wasn’t able to actually build one).  

    FORTRAN, COBOL, C, BASIC (co-developed at an american university by an american and a hungarian-american), Visual Basic, perl, lisp, smalltalk.  Probably others.

    Pretty much every major personal computer operating system except linux:




    Classic Mac OS’s

    OS X

  155. Mike Edwards says:

    Getting English spoken throughout the world wasn’t so hard when you consider the one-time size of the British Empire – without that it would probably have been much harder. I seem to recall reading that the decision in the US over whether to speak English or German was decided by only one vote, though I assume that wasn’t a referendum.

    As for curry, wasn’t that invented by the British Army when posted overseas as a way of disguising the awful taste of the various items they had left to cook?

  156. Lorenzo says:

    Actually, telephone was invented by Meucci (Italy).

    And, beyond Gavino’s list of what Italy claims there is:

    • Music terminology (still in Italian: presto, allegro, etc.)

    • Wireless telegraphy (Guglielmo Marconi,  Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention)

    • The discovery of the new world (Cristoforo Colombo and Amerigo Vespucci)

    • Maffia

  157. Lorenzo says:

    Actually, telephone was invented by Meucci (Italy).

    And, beyond Gavino’s list of what Italy claims there is:

    • Music terminology (still in Italian: presto, allegro, etc.)

    • Wireless telegraphy (Guglielmo Marconi,  Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention)

    • The discovery of the new world (Cristoforo Colombo and Amerigo Vespucci)

    • Maffia

  158. Lorenzo says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention MPEG and MP3, by Leonardo Chiariglione!!!

  159. SeaDrive says:

    USA: electronic computer, semi-conductors, integrated circuits, masers, lasers, a host of artificial fibers, etc, etc.

    How does Canada or England claim basketball?

  160. Mango says:

    So far, I see at least 4 countries claiming the light bulb as their own: the UK, Canada, Russia, and the United States.

    That’s the thing with inventions.  They tend to evolve in small steps.  It’s not clear at exactly what step the invention occurred.  I think all the later claims depend on Swan’s idea of using an evacuated glass bulb, the Russian claim is independent of the Canadian and American work, while Edison purchased a Canadian 1874 patent and incorporated some parts of it into his (much improved) design.

  161. Mango says:

    SeaDrive: Canada claims basketball because Dr Naismith was a Canadian.  He was living in Massachusetts when he invented it, though.  So which country should get the credit, under the Official Rules of National Pride in Inventions?

  162. Marcel says:

    I claim the theory of relativity for Germany (Einstein). And of course all the other stuff he did ;-)

  163. Garry Trinder says:

    Hmmm… It just occurred to me, a life-long resident of New Jersey (one of the 50 United States for the less geographically aware), we can claim many of the inventions of Einstein (who spend much of his life at Princeton), Edison ("The Wizard of Menlo Park" — a town which is now known as Edison, NJ") AND those of AT&T/Bell Labs.

    (Musically, we are home to Count Basie, Bruce Spreingsteen, and Frank Sintra — "The Count", "The Boss" and "The Chairman of the Board".)

  164. Garry Trinder says:

    > I claim the theory of relativity for Germany (Einstein).

    This bring up another point…. Can you claim an invention for your country, if you essentially chased the inventor out of it?

  165. Mango says:

    Can Israel claim all inventions by Jews?

    After all, if you go back far enough…

  166. ph says:

    @Mango: You still can’t claim fictional inventions though :P

  167. akutty says:

    maybe its time for us to think beyond claims… or else it would be as good as trying to feel and live in the history for that time….

  168. Brian Hjøllund says:

    Just to clarify on Niels Bohr, who I consider the greatest dane to have lived, he is often refered to as the father of quantum physics. He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1922.

    Also related; Åge Bohr, his son. He won the Nobel Prize in physics 53 years after his father, in 1975.

    But usually, we’re just overlooked here in little Denmark.

  169. @Lol Lolovici, first off, we’re talking about claims, rather than fact.

    However, for the sport in it, I’ll rebut: Wikipedia places Akhenaten of Egypt at the 14th century BC and Marduk of Babylon at the 18th century BC, while Abraham (first Jewish person) is placed at the 19-20th century BC.

    Still, this far back, we can’t be sure about anything.

    @Alex, see my previous post, in which I stated that New Testament claims don’t apply to me, since I’m Jewish. :)

    @Mango, in the spirit of the post, why not? :D

  170. Mike H says:

    Ben Franklin discovered electricity. We (as opposed to "them") also put the first man on the moon, dropped the atomic bomb, as well as inventing the imac, ipod, iphone, twitter, american idol…

  171. memsom says:

    Chicken Tikk Masala was invented in the UK (by imigrants, based on traditional concepts mixed with British tastes)

    Web/http – Tim Berners Leee, most certainly English. Though, he did invent in at CERN.

    For a lot of these "he was born here, but because he lived here he’s ours" arguments. I would take the nationality(-ies) of the inventon *at the time of invention*. So, Bell, for example, will have had at least dual nationality.

    I can’t believe no one else has pointed out that the English invented, well "English" as a world language. England is a fairly small country, yet we got our language to be spoken, pretty much everywhere in some form or another.

  172. Steve C says:

    @Mike H, you were probably being funny, but the "Idol" franchise was invented by a Brit, Simon Fuller (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Fuller)

  173. kaerber says:


    won World War II – actually, took a biggest part in winning it *winks to all the D-Day fans*

    first satellite, first unmanned space flight, first manned space flight

    the most powerful weapon – thermonuclear bomb of 58 megatons

    more peaceful inventions – periodic table of Mendeleev, Lobachevsky geometry

    and some more which are not real but taught nonetheless: air baloon, steam machine, bicycle, steam locomotive, air plane, light bulb, radio, television.

  174. Stephen Jones says:

    —-"Also, Iceland wrote the first book on grammar,"—–

    Only out by around 1,500 years. Panini’s Sanskrit Grammar came out in the 4th century BC, and in it he refers to earlier works.

    Joseph Needham, author of the monumental ‘Science and Civilization’ in China, once gave a talk in a don’s room on the History of Alcohol. Me and my mate turned up, partly because we rightly divined there’d be free alcohol given out after the talk.

    And yes, it turned out that alcohol was invented in China as a result of leaving fermented drinks out in the snow so the alcohol formed because of the different freezing points.

  175. Stephen Jones says:

    —-"As for curry, wasn’t that invented by the British Army when posted overseas as a way of disguising the awful taste of the various items they had left to cook?"—–

    Curry was simply the name the Brits gave to certain of the Indian sub-continent’s dishes.

    And the food in India would have been top class, as it is now.

  176. Simon Cooke says:

    In the UK, it’s:

    * Crop rotation

    * The industrial revolution

    * Steam powered engines

    * The spinning Jenny

    * Public Hygiene projects

    * Radar

    * The first stored-program computer

    * The television (John Logie Baird)

    * The sandwich

  177. Simon Cooke says:

    Oh yeah… more UK ones:

    * Modern chemistry

    * Electricity

    * The discovery of the atom

    * Computer science (Turing)

    * Gravity (Newton)

  178. Joe says:

    "Asphalt road surface (tarmac, or Tar McAdam)"

    One of his descendants was my professor at DeVry … Professor MacAdam. He mentioned this, and joked about how there was no patent system in Scotland so no royalties to his family. :)

  179. Craig says:

    Well, for the USA, I’d say:

    * Transistor (and MOSFET)

    * The PC

    * The cell phone

    * UNIX

    * The laser

    * Graphical User Interfaces (and the mouse)

    * C

    * The CCD

    * The atomic bomb

    * The first very large scale representative government (Incidentally, the US isn’t a democracy and was never intended to be. We’re a Constitutional Federal Republic.)

  180. will says:

    The cotton gin is important because before it raising cotton was really labor intensive which made cotton a high end product.

    Because of the labor requirements only large plantations could raise and process it.  After the cotton gin cotton quickly became a common product that it still is today; it is far better then wool undies.  Cotton because the product of the south and with large sales all over the world.

    On the bad side with the lower laber requirements it because possible to raise cotton in smaller farms. This caused slavery to expand and probably lengthed the time that US slavery was around.

  181. Pera says:

    Serbia/Former Yugoslavia: Practical use of alternating current (done by one Nikola Tesla, who was a Serb born in the Habsburg empire, worked in USA… get the picture?)

    Young children are taught that "Tesla invented electricity". Not quite, but he did make several key inventions in the field (and Tesla’s A/C did win over Edison’s D/C in distribution / broad applications).

  182. Shuva says:

    Mahatma Gandhi : The philosophy of non-violence (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonviolence)

  183. Iain says:

    Scottish: we basically invented everything :)  Electricity (!), phones, computers, golf, football (soccer), radio, tv…

  184. Sergey (Ukraine) says:

    In Ukraine we are proud of some Russian Empire/USSR achievements (that Ukraine was part of) like victories in wars against Napoleon and WW II. There are lot of war heroes that are Ukrainian.

    Also some main guys behind Soviet Space and Nuclear missiles programs were Ukraine or worked in Ukraine. Examples:

    Sergey Korolyov (head constructor) is Ukrainian;

    Mikhail Yangel one of main competitors of Korolev is Russian but worked in Ukraine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuzhnoye_Design_Bureau). Famous R-36 (SS-18 Satan in NATO terminology) was created in this design bureau;

    Yuri Kondratyuk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuri_Kondratyuk) whose calculations and ideas were used in Apollo program is Ukrainian.

    Also we are often taught that Igor Sikorsky is Ukrainian

    Among things that we are proud of as an independent country only one came to my mind. The Constitution by Pylyp Orlyk that is claimed to be the first constitution in Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Pylyp_Orlyk)

  185. Martin from London says:

    The English invented taking other countries inventions and claiming them for your own. Or am I just doing it again?

  186. Pi says:

    @George Jansen:

    "why not economics, if you going for credit–Xenophon write a dialogue of that name."

    Dang! If I had read about it, I forgot. I also hoped Greeks wouldn’t be (partially) responsible for this because I hate economics. I will never become rich but then again I am proud of doing a real job ;-)


    I suggest you watch "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". You will love the family’s father and as a bonus you will learn about new applications of Windex or whatever it’s called.

    @everybody else:

    I forgot about newer Greek achievements like

    • the dance of Zorbas

    • soundtrack of Conan the Barbarian and eh…

    • most smokers and car accidents in Europe?

  187. Esteban says:

    Also Argentina:

    • dulce de leche

    • coronary by-pass (by René Favaloro)

  188. Shuva says:

    India: More than 1000 dialects in a single country. Almost every child learns at least 3 languages. (I can talk in 4 lingo, and understand 6 lingo completely). Rich culture and diversity in recorded history. Never fought a war to invade another country and current the only economically powered nation who is friendly with Oriental countries, the West and the middle est at the same time. Responsible for origination of the oldest religion, Hinduism which origin is based on respect of powers of nature. Birth place of religion like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. These are the only religions which have claimed minimum number of human lives in the name of God.

    Earliest and only known Modern Language: Sanskrit.

    Invention of zero and relating it to Mathematics.

    Aryabhata, an Indian Mathematician (c. 500AD) accurately calculated celestial constants like earth’s rotation per solar orbit, days per solar orbit, days per lunar orbit.

    Negative numbers, pascal triangle solution, Pythagoras theorem (though the Greeks made it more popular).

    The game of Chess.

    Cotton cultivation.

    The Ramam eeffect.

    And the Kamasutra of course.

  189. Rob says:

    I’m pretty sure Britain must have invented self-deprecating humour.  Not that we’re any good at it.

  190. chandra says:

    curry- the word comes from Tamil(language widely spoken in South India,Malaysia, Singapore, and Sri lanka)

  191. ACW says:

    When I was in high school (about 3 years ago) here in the United States, we were taught that Henry Ford was known best for his assembly line process; the fact that he made cars was just a sidenote.

  192. Sergey (Ukraine) says:

    Also in Russia and Ukraine we are proud of our humour. There is one old joke on related theme that was popular in USSR.

    People from different countries gathered to boast of their inventions.

    Dutch comes out and says: “We invented thing that gives you ability to see distant stars as if they were near! It is called telescope”

    Italian comes out in and says: “We invented thing that gives you ability to see very small things as if they were big! It is called microscope”

    Russian comes out in and says: “And we invented thing that gives you ability to see everything through 3-foots concrete wall! It is called window.”

  193. MC says:


    * We invited the word "robot" (Josef Capek, popularized by Karel Capek in his piece named R.U.R.)

    * Many classical composers (Antonin Dvorak, Bedrich Smetana, Leos Janacek, …)

    * Jara Cimrman – the fictional character (created by Czech humourists Jiri Sebanek, Zdenek Sverak and Ladislav Smoljak)

    By the way, Jara Cimrman won the first round of official voting of Greatest Czech (Czech Television), but being disqualified later because he did not live, nor was not born in Czech. :-)

    * Prim’s algorithm (Vojtech Jarnik)


    * Electric arc lamp; invented a device to protect against collision between trains (Frantisek Krizik)

    * First recognised the individuality of fingerprints (Jan Evangelista Purkyne)

    * Modern contact lenses (Otto Wichterle)

    * Electroscope (John Zeleny)

    * Deep psychology (Sigmond Freud)


  194. Jeremy says:

    New Zealand:

    * Jet boats

    * Bungee jumping

  195. CatG says:

    In Taiwan we were taught that we are not Taiwanese but Chinese, sigh.

    what’s more, is that being Chinese is *the best* contribution… WTF.

  196. Anon says:

    Jagadish Chandra Bose invented wireless before Marconi made it famous…


  197. David A says:

    Mobile phones – Sweden (Look up NMT)

  198. Ricardo says:

    more about Portugal:

    Fernão de Magalhães: made the first successful attempt to circumnavigate the Earth

    Carlos Viegas Gago Coutinho: first person to cross the South Atlantic Ocean by air

    Christopher Columbus: some people say he might be portuguese

    Discovering Australia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Portuguese_discovery_of_Australia

  199. pieter says:

    Here in South Africa we are pretty much made to feel like we invented (or at least perfected) racism.

    One positive thing I can think of is that our Dr Chris Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant.

  200. Olli says:

    I’m a bit late to all of this, but @JeffRobertson, I’m hoping you were being tongue-in-cheek when you said:

    “Maybe not so much “democracy”, as “Freedom”. Nobody was ever “free” anywhere in the world before 1776; and anybody outside the US who happens to be “free”, is only so because of US intervention.”

    because I’d imagine lots of nationalities would claim to be free before 1776. For example, here in the UK we’d claim 1215 as the date (the Magna Carta), and as for the Ancient Greeks…

    The latter are a good comparison because just like the US, they had a very large slave population who clearly weren’t free. My grandmother was Swiss, and she always claimed the Swiss invented democracy, so I’d imagine the Swiss would also claim freedom.

    On another note, why haven’t any Italians claimed the alphabet we’re all using to comment here?

    [He was playing along with the game, which is “What are students taught?” as opposed to “What is true?” -Raymond]
  201. mafidufa says:

    As the cradle of humanity, in Kenya we ‘invented’ homo sapiens. Stone tools and cooking fires soon followed. However the inventors migrated soon afterwards and we are left with one of the highest levels of politicians per capita in the world, we have even begun exporting them – Obama

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