Land of Inventors – Research in Germany

GAME: Spirit of Invention

Right or wrong? Even great inventors like Carl Benz, Wilhelm Röntgen and Co. have to make decisions on a small and large scale during the course of their lives. Play the game and choose the right direction for them.

Idea Clicker

Who can think up the most ideas? Who is fastest? Click on the bulb to increase the number of your ideas. The more ideas you generate, the faster you complete all the inventors and inventions in your workshop.


      Made in Germany

      Germany has always been a land of tinkerers and inventors. Find out about 14 inventions from Hamburg to Munich.

      Hamburg, 1969

      Virtually everyone carries some with them all the time: one or several chip cards. Hamburg radio technician Jürgen Dethloff was the first to have the idea of storing information on cards. In 1969 he registered for a patent on his plastic card with an integrated circuit.
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      Chip card

      Rostock, 1939

      The Heinkel He 178 was the first jet plane in the world, and much faster than the propeller-driven aircraft of the time. It was powered by a turbojet developed by physicist Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain. Today jet planes carry more than five billion passengers worldwide.

      © „Ohain USAF He 178 page61“
      Jet engine / jet plane

      Berlin, 1935

      Konrad Zuse, a young civil engineer, started building a programmable computing machine in 1935 in his parents’ flat. It was only the third attempt, the Z3, that was fully functional – but that makes this machine the first computer in the world, and it was the size of a wall-to-wall cupboard.
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      © CC BY-SA 3.0

      Leipzig, 1650

      In 1605, the first weekly paper in the world was published in Strasbourg, which was part of Germany at the time: the “Relation”. Before long new newspapers were popping up everywhere. The Thirty Years War was taking place in Europe, and people wanted to know what was happening far away as quickly as possible. On 1st July 1650, Leipzig book printer Timotheus Ritzsch was granted authority by the king to publish a newspaper six times a week. His “Einkommende Zeitungen” are considered the first daily newspapers in the world.

      © Stiftung Saarländischer Kulturbesitz / Sammlung Deutsches Zeitungsmuseum
      First daily newspaper

      Wuppertal-Elberfeld, 1897

      On 10th August 1897, chemist Felix Hoffmann became the first person to manufacture pure acetylsalicylic acid (ASS) in the labs at Bayer. Under the name of aspirin the new medication has become the best-known medicine in the world. More than 50 000 tonnes of aspirin are manufactured every year, which in tablet form would be equivalent to the distance from the earth to the moon – and back!
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      © picture alliance/akg

      Bonn - Bad Godesberg, 1915

      Café Agner was frequented by students in 1915, and the “in” dessert at that time was cherries and cream. Josef Kellner, a pastry chef from Swabia, had a brilliant idea. “Sweet Josef”, as Keller was nicknamed, made an elaborate gateau out of a simple dessert. For this he put a sponge base underneath his cherries and cream, sprinkled chocolate shavings over the top and set off the whole dish with Black Forest kirsch liqueur. His creation has become world-famous under the name of Black Forest Gateau.

      Black Forest gateau

      Göttingen, 1999

      Stefan Hell developed the STED microscope in 1999 in Göttingen: the new technology makes it possible to observe structures measuring just a few nanometres even in living cells and tissues. Hell was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2014 for his work.
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      Source: Video: Stefan Hell, STED-Mikroskop
      STED microscope

      Mannheim, 1886

      The first “modern” car ran on three wheels: Carl Benz applied for a patent on his motorcar on 29th January 1886. His wife Bertha took it on the first journey over a longer distance; at the beginning of August 1888 she and her two sons travelled more than 100 kilometres from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back. She bought petrol en route from the chemist’s.
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      © Mercedes-Benz Classic

      Mainz, around 1450

      Johannes Gensfleisch, known as Gutenberg, is considered the inventor of modern book printing as well as the printing press. His invention triggered a real media revolution in Europe starting in 1450, because the new process made it possible to mass-produce books. Printing is deemed one of the most important inventions of the second millennium, causing lasting changes to society, science and politics in the Renaissance.

      © Wikipedia
      Book printing

      Waldachtal-Tumlingen, 1958

      Artur Fischer, a skilled locksmith and entrepreneur, has over 1000 patents to his name – making him the most successful inventor in Germany. His best-known invention is the expansion plug. It is simpler, faster and more stable than previous systems and has become a success across the globe.

      © picture-alliance/ dpa

      Herzogenaurach, 1925

      Adi Dassler had a mission: he wanted the optimum shoe for each sport. Athletes were wearing special shoes from his workshop at the Amsterdam Olympic Games back in 1928; in 1936 top athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals wearing Dassler shoes in Berlin. The great breakthrough came in 1954, with the legendary football World Cup Final. Germany beat Hungary – who were considered unbeatable – and Dassler’s shoes with the removable studs became word-famous under the brand name ADIDAS.

      © adidas Group
      Sports shoe with studs

      Würzburg, 1895

      Like many physicists of the time, physics professor and university chancellor Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen also experimented with a phenomenon known as cathode radiation in his laboratory. On 8th November 1895, he discovered a new kind of radiation. Its immense significance in medicine soon became apparent: for the first time it was possible to see inside a person’s body without injuring them.
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      Augsburg, 1897

      In 1893, Rudolf Diesel was granted the patent for a new type of engine, but it wasn't until 1897 that he and the engineers at the Maschinenfabrik Augsburg (later to become MAN) were able to build a functional model. Today the diesel engine is valued all over the world as a reliable and robust means of propulsion, especially for ships, buses and trucks.

      Diesel engine

      Munich, 1810

      The most famous “invention” from Munich must be the Oktoberfest. Founded in 1810 as a horse-racing event to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, it has evolved into the largest public festival in the world with more than 6 million visitors every year.

      But Munich has plenty to offer when it comes to science as well: research and teaching are very well catered for in Munich and the surrounding area with 15 universities, academies and colleges, 11 Max Planck Institutes, three Fraunhofer Institutes, four Leibniz facilities and the Helmholtz Zentrum in Neuherberg.

      © picture alliance/Ruth Botzenhardt

      Study and research

      Germany is one of the world’s leading study and research centres, offering a wide range of opportunities.


      The Goethe-Institut has dedicated an exhibition to Land of Inventors – Research in Germany, in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute and the Max Planck Society. You can find teaching materials relating to the exhibition, tour dates and much more here.

      Media Library

      Do you want to know more about research in Germany? You can find films and other materials on this topic here.