Renowned Czech and Polish inventors
Aug. 24, 2015
by Mark Ollig

I am dedicating this week’s column to my mother.

You see, my mom is celebrating a big birthday this week.

Her father was Polish and Czech, while her mother was 100 percent Czech.

So, in seeking to come up with a theme for this special column, I decided to write about inventions contributed by some of the Czech and Polish folks.

German and French lineage was on my father’s side of the family, so yours truly logically concluded this makes me a combination of Czech, Polish, German, and French.

There is a possibility my father’s mother’s side also had some Polish ancestry; however, I never established absolute confirmation on this.

But I digress.

And so, faithful readers, since “C” comes before “P” we will start out with a Czech inventor.

Czech inventor Frantisek “Franz” Krizik was born July 8, 1847, in Bohemia of the now Czech Republic.

Krizik, an electrical engineer, along with fellow engineer Ludwig Piette, were responsible for the invention of the arc-lamp.

The arc-lamp is an electrical source of light caused when an arc of electricity is burning between two electrodes, or electrical conductors.

Krizik designed the arc-lamp electric lighting system used for an Austrian paper mill.

The arc-lamp also won the Gold Medal award at the Paris Electrical Exhibition of 1881.

Both Krizik and Piette were subjects of the Empire of Austria, and resided in Pilsen.

Pilsen is a town located in West Bohemia, which is in the Czech Republic.

Krizik and Piette’s arc-lamp, encased in a decorative metal and glass enclosure, came to be known as “The Pilsen Light.”

They were used in theaters, and for public lighting, all around the world.

In 1880, their arc-lamp was patented in England, Germany, France, Belgium, and Austria-Hungary.

March 13, 1883, the US Patent office granted Krizik and Piette US Patent No. 273,888 for their invention of the electric-arc lamp.

You can view the complete US patent at: http://tinyurl.com/FKrizik.

Krizik passed away Jan., 22, 1941; however, his contribution of the electric arc-lamp is still remembered today.

Polish inventor Stanislaw Olszewski, born in 1852, was also involved in an “arc” invention; however, his fame comes as the co-creator of carbon arc welding.

Olszewski, along with Russian inventor Nickolai Benardos, patented their arc welding process in Britain in 1885, and received US Patent No. 363,320 on May 17, 1887.

You can view their complete US patent titled “Process of and Apparatus for Working Metals by the Direct Application of Electric Current” here: http://tinyurl.com/Pat363320.

While not patented, the word “robot” has nevertheless become a part of the technical jargon commonly used in today’s world; and frequently seen in this column.

We need to credit this word to brothers Karel and Josef Capek, both of whom were Czech, and born in Bohemia, which is today, as we know, part of the Czech Republic.

In 1920, Czech writer, novelist, and journalist Karel Capek wrote a play called “R.U.R.” meaning: “Rossum’s Universal Robots.”

Rossum’s Universal Robots is the name of the factory where “artificial people” or automatons, called “robots,” are being built.

Robot, or robotics, comes from the Czech word meaning “forced labor” or “servitude.”

NPR.org, as well as Sciencefriday.com, says “robots” was suggested to be used in the play by Karel’s brother, Josef.

The Merriam Webster online dictionary says this about the origin of the word robot: “Czech, from robota; compulsory labor.”

Capek’s play came to the United States, and was performed in New York in 1922, and then in London in 1923.

Polish Inventor, Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner, produced the first direct sound-on-film (audible film soundtrack) recording in 1921.

I watched a very grainy, but visually viewable and audibly listenable video, produced by Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner, titled “Talking Motion Pictures,” which textually explains and demonstrates sound being directly recorded as an audio track onto cinematic film.

The old film starts with this text: “Apparatus for photographing speech and pictures simultaneously on a film.”

Next, it states its purpose of being a: “Demonstration of the first experimental talking films produced in 1921-1922 at the University of Illinois, by Prof. J.T. Tykociner.”

Joseph Tykocinski-Tykociner’s voice is heard as he performs a test of his speech as it is being directly recorded as an audio soundtrack onto film in October 1921.

Other sights and sounds shown in this five-minute and 41-second demonstration film included bells being rung; it ends with a person playing a violin.

Tykocinski-Tykociner was granted US Patent No. 1,640,557 on Aug. 30, 1927, for “Method of and Means for Transmitting, Recording, and Reproducing Sound,” which you can view in its entirety here: http://tinyurl.com/Patent-083027.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s library archives is where the demonstration video was embedded from. It was uploaded to YouTube at: http://tinyurl.com/Tykociner.

And so, dear readers, we have come to the end of this week’s Bits & Bytes column covering some of the contributions made by Czech and Polish inventors.

In closing, I want to thank my mom for being such an incredibly caring mother to me, and for reading this column over the years.

I also want to wish her a very happy 85th birthday!

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