Learn 5 Things About Belgian’s Inventions & Innovations

There’s no shortage of Belgian geniuses that have created lots of awesome inventions, innovations, and super brilliant ideas (like the Smurfs). It wasn’t easy to pick which five were our favorites, but these might be the best ones to keep in your back pocket for trivia.

Did you know that the Belgians invented …

Asphalt in 1870. Actually, like many of the other items on this list, a Belgian made the most massive innovation or the best version. Professor and chemist Edward J. de Smedt is to thank for our smoothly paved roads. He laid and patented his “sheet asphalt pavement” in New Jersey first, replacing the former bumpy bricks and cobblestone with his mixture of sand and tar.

Internal combustion in 1860. Belgium’s Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir was responsible for replacing steam-powered engines with his internal combustion engine, the first of its kind to be produced in numbers commercially.


Rollerskates in 1760. While others had attempted to design some sweet wheeled boots, John Joseph Merlin came up with the first recorded inline skate invention. He debuted them by skating into a ballroom while playing violin, where he accidentally crashed into a giant mirror, almost killed himself, and broke his instrument. His research, as well as roller-skate research in general, went on hold for about 20 years after that performance.


Baketlite in 1907. Also known as polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, this phenol & formaldehyde concoction is the work of another Belgian chemist. Leo Henricus Arthur Baekeland kicked off the age of plastics when he came up with the first plastic that held its shape after heating. Because of its heat resistance and durability, its application became widespread internationally by the time of his death in 1944.


The World Wide Web in 1990. Belgian informatics engineer and computer scientist Robert Cailliau worked with Tim Berners-Lee to come up with a hypertext system to access and handle data for their employer, CERN. By 1993, he and Nicola Pellow developed the first web browser for Macs.


Bonus: We have a Belgian to thank for remote control racer cars. Jean Bourguignon made over 50 inventions in his time, but how can we argue that any were better than the RC racer car?

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