The popular image of a German scientist seems to be polarised between on the one hand the eccentric lone researcher dabbling in the forbidden - Dr Faustus, Dr Frankenstein, and Prof Einstein as examples - and on the other the emotionless, lab-coated, 'vorspung durch Technik' automaton. The truth is that Germans have been at the fore-front across all manner of scientific discovery and inventiveness, and incorporate the same range of individuals and personalities as their American or English cousins.
The products of their labours effect people world-wide, and here is an eclectic list of just some of them. I have excluded the obvious - you will probably know that most of the car industry was pioneered by Germans like Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz - and instead gone for inventions and ideas that I at least didn't associate with Germany.
Christmas trees became popular with the European nobility, and though we often associate the introduction of the tradition into the UK with Prince Albert, in fact the future Queen Victoria wrote awestruck about a Christmas Tree in her diary when she was just 13.
It is true though that Prince Albert was instrumental in popularising decorating Christmas Trees with glass ornaments (Glaskugeln), which were principally made by the glass-blowers of Lauschau (Thuringia). However, it was F.W.Woolworth who was responsible for introducing glass ornaments to the USA via his eponymous stores in the 1880's, after seeing them on a visit to Lauschau.
Christmas Tree tinsel (das Lametta) was invented in Nuremburg, Germany, around 1610, when it was made from extruded silver and was supposed to represent the starry sky over the nativity. Christmas trees were also decorated with candles to represent the starry firmament, another German innovation which we now more safely carry on as fairy lights.
The first commercially printed advent calendar is credited to Gerhard Lang of the firm Reichhold & Lang of Munich in 1908. The company later introduced the idea of actually having opening doors each day on the calendar, revealing a Christmassy scene. The idea of lighting candles on an Advent wreath is also traced to German Lutheran tradition, something that escaped me each Christmas as a child when the UK TV program 'Blue Peter' made one out of two coat-hangers and tinsell.
Finally, no Christmas Carol Service is complete without the singing of 'Silent Night', which was composed in German as 'Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht' and first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at the St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf bei Salzburg.
Without her invention I would never have got those student essays done on time, so hats off to you Frau Bentz!
Electric Urban Transport
For services to keeping me sane on the commute to work, I salute you!
'smiley face' crater on Mars named after him. Which is nice.
Ring Binders and Hole Punches
Both were patented by Friedrich Soennecken (1848 - 1919), born in the Sauerland of Nordrhein-Westfalen and founder of the Bonn-based stationers 'Soennecken' (now defunct).
Ingersheim (Baden-Württemberg) born Louis Leitz (1846 - 1918) added the innovation of having a finger-hole in the spine of the ring-binder to make it easier to get them from a shelf.
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf who was persecuted both by the Nazi and the East German regimes. She collected household items from bombed out buildings and later from household clearances of people fleeing to the West, and these form the basis of the rather interesting Gründerzeit Museum.
So,whilst the first demonstration of transmitting moving images electrically over a wire is credited to John Logie Baird (Scottish) on 26th March 1926, he used a mechanical scanning disk invented by Paul Gottlieb Nipkow (German) in 1884 who used it to transmit still images over a wire. Television development then went in the direction of using cathode rays, a term first coined by German physicist Eugen Goldstein around 1876. But the cathode ray tube itself was invented independently in 1907 by A.A. Campbell Swinton (English) and Boris Rosing (Russian). Rosing combined Nipkow's disk and a cathode ray tube to invent the first working mechanical TV system in 1906. Kálmán Tihanyi (Hungarian) invented a fully electronic system using CRT instead of Nipkow disks in 1926 (and by the way, designed the world's first automatic pilotless aircraft in Great Britain in 1929). Tihanyi went to Berlin to sell his system to Telefunken and Siemens in 1928, but they decided to stick with the mechanical TV. Meanwhile Kenjiro Takayanagi (Japanese) was working along similar lines in the 1920's, and eventually went on to be involved in the development of colour television and video recorders at JVC. In 1936 the first televised Olympic Games were held in Berlin, the moving images being transmitted along cables to special viewing rooms as far away as Leipzig. The first regular public television broadcasts (not along cables) were begun by the BBC from Alexander Palace, England, on 2nd November 1936. Or were they? According to Wikipedia and many guide books to Berlin, the world's first regular television program began broadcasting from the Funkturm in Berlin on March 22, 1935. None of this would have been possible of course without the work of Guglielmo Marconi (Italian) and Nikola Tesla (Serbian), pioneers in long-distance radio transmission in the early 1900's. Back to 1936 and our Hungarian Tihanyi described the principle of plasma display and the first flat-panel display system. Phew, and we've not even touched upon the developments in the USA, such as the world's first test TV broadcasts by WRGB from radio studios in Schenectady in early 1928, and the world's first TV commercial broadcast by Charles Jenkins of Dayton Ohio in 1936.
So yes, Germans certainly contributed to the early development of television, but it is really the world-wide scientific community bouncing ideas off one-another that we have to thank. Or, given what is usually on the goggle-box, curse!