Despite having only 9 million residents, Sweden hits way above its weight when it comes to innovation. The Scandinavian country has produced some of the most well-known products in the world, many of which we use on a daily basis. For example, did you know the Celsius temperature scale was developed by a Swede? How about countless life-saving medical devices including the pacemaker? Or, how about one of Coca-Cola’s most recognizable symbols? (And as for the United States, it might be a very different country were it not for the Swedish invention and inventor in #24.)
In this list, we bring to light things you might not know came from Sweden. Though people like Alfred Nobel and products like Absolut Vodka are better-known Swedish exports – well, besides clothing manufacturer H&M – our modern lives would not be possible without the immense contributions from talented Swedish inventors. Maybe all the research and innovation is because Sweden hasn’t fought in a war since 1814 or because its high salaries attract talented workers. Either way, Sweden and its products are revolutionizing our world. Check out some of these amazing products in our list of 25 Things You Might Not Know Came From Sweden.
Almost every person in the world recognizes the Coca-Cola bottle thanks to its distinctive shape. Though Coke was founded by John Pemberton, its iconic bottle was designed and originally produced by Swede Alexander Samuelsson.
One of the most important inventions making modern-day travel possible, the propeller was originally designed for ships and patented by Swedish inventor John Ericsson in 1836. Ericsson famously built the Yankee battleship Monitor, which helped the North clinch victory from the South.
A common feature of most of our wardrobes, backpacks, and more, the zipper was designed by Swedish-American inventor Gideon Sundbäck. Patented in 1917, the zipper’s interlocking teeth and slider have touched nearly every textile industry on Earth. (Fun fact: Originally, the zipper was called the hookless fastener – boring!)
While every country has musicians, Sweden has some of the most popular; the country is the third largest music exporter in the world after the United States and United Kingdom. Though most people know of ABBA – they even have a museum in Stockholm – did you know that Ace of Base, Eric Prydz, and Avicii are also from Sweden?
Celsius Temperature Scale
Used by all but five countries, the Celsius temperature scale was developed by mathematician and astronomer Anders Celsius. After massively contributing to the field of astronomy with his observations of eclipses and planetary orbits, the scientist developed a new thermometer which measures 100 degrees between the freezing point and boiling point of water.
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Did you know the ultrasound was developed in Sweden? In the 1970’s, Swedish physician Inge Edler worked with Austrian researcher Carl Hellmuth Hertz to develop the first ultrasound, the primary non-invasive way to examine our hearts and internal organs.
Though Americans were the first to step foot on the Moon, the rest of us on Earth wouldn’t have seen it without a Swede. Viktor Hasselblad established a company to produce aerial cameras for the Swedish air force. His camera with a single-lens reflex system was later taken into space by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to photograph the Moon’s surface.
Serial inventor Håkan Lans invented the predecessor to what became the standard computer mouse. He also developed color computer graphics which are used by nearly every computer manufacturer today.
One of the most famous Swedes, Alfred Nobel invented dynamite in 1866, revolutionizing the construction and exploration industries. He also bequeathed most of his fortune to create the Nobel Prizes.
The savior of millions of lives, the pacemaker was developed in 1958 by Rune Elmqvist. Run by a battery, the device is placed inside a person’s body to regulate an irregular heartbeat, emitting electrical pulses to ensure proper muscle contraction.
These days, almost every car on the planet has Sweden to thank for its invention of the three-point seatbelt. Running across the waist and over the shoulder like a “Y” to spread energy during an accident, the seatbelt was created by Nils Bohlin for Volvo.
Keep reading to find out what other safety features Swedes have added to our daily life.
Many of us chat daily with family and friends on video through Skype, but did you know the service is something which originally came from Sweden? Working with a small team that included Danish inventor Janus Friis, Niklas Zennström developed the back-end for Skype, a company which sold to Microsoft for $8.5 billion in 2011.
The gamma knife is one of the most important medical inventions which has come from Sweden. Professors Lars Leskell and Borge Larsson invented the surgical device which, despite its name, has no metal knife; it uses gamma waves to treat cancer and brain tumors without making dangerous incisions.
Though it may not seem immediately revolutionary, the adjustable wrench (AKA adjustable spanner) is one of the most widely used Swedish inventions, found in nearly every toolbox. Rather than having to carry around packs and packs of wrenches, Johan Petter Johansson patented the adjustable wrench, sometimes called the Swedish key, in 1891.
Anyone who has worked on a dairy farm knows how laborious it is to milk a cow by hand. Enter Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval who invented the milking machine in 1896, drastically streamlining the dairy industry. (He also invented a Separator to divide the cream from the milk.)
Swede Bengt Ilon invented the Mecanum wheel in 1973. Though the standard wheel has been virtually the same since the caveman era, the Mecanum wheel can move in any direction. It has proven especially useful in wheelchairs and on Navy ships.
Bottle Return Machine
Though still a relatively rare sight in the United States, bottle return machines are something you may not know came from Sweden. The machines can be seen throughout Europe thanks to Wicanders, who created the first working model. Today, over 100,000 of the machines are spread out across the planet, accepting used bottles and containers and returning money to the user.
Though matches weren’t invented in Sweden, until Gustaf Erik Pasch took a look at them, they were quite dangerous. With flammable phosphorous embedded in the match head, they easily burned the user. Pasch moved the phosphorous to the side of the match box and replaced the poisonous yellow phosphorous with a non-toxic red version. Thanks to his innovation, Sweden has at times produced upwards of 75% of global matches.
Almost every carton of milk, fruit juice, and a host of other liquids has Sweden to thank. Invented by Erik Wallenberg in 1946, the Tetrapak revolutionized packaging systems by making cartons out of paper. It was soon commercialized by Swede Ruben Rausing.
Famous Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson was founded by Lars Magnus Ericsson in 1876. Its first widely successful product was a telephone handset with both speaker and mouthpiece built into the same housing. Previously, telephone users had to hold the speaker to their ear and hold the separate microphone to their mouth to speak.
Though a Swede didn’t directly invent GPS (Global Positioning System), Håkan Lans did invent one of its most important derivations. His AIS (Automatic Identification System) has become the standard for both sea and air traffic tracking and collision avoidance.
Better known as Prilosec in the United States, Losec was the 1990’s best-selling drug worldwide. This Swedish ulcer medication was developed by Astra Zeneca and is also used to treat acid reflux.
So, in truth, we didn’t think we had to mention this one since every IKEA store is basically a massive Swedish flag. For those who haven’t yet built a full dining room for less than the price of a beer in Manhattan, IKEA is one of the most popular furniture companies in the world and proudly Swedish.
The System of Nature
Anyone who studies plants, animals, or minerals has Carl Linnaeus to thank. Not receiving nearly the amount of notoriety he should, Linnaeus compiled a classification system for our natural world, creating a central repository for scientists worldwide which is still used over 250 years later.
Hövding Bicycle Airbag
With such a prevalent biking culture, Sweden wanted to make sure its riders were safe in all situations. To counteract the lack of helmet usage, the company Hövding developed an airbag for cyclists. The tiny “invisible helmet” looks like a trendy scarf and can inflate within 1/10th of a second if it detects strange or erratic cycling.
If you enjoyed this list, you might also enjoy 25 People You Might Not Know Are Swedish.