When we think about breakthrough discoveries and inventions that changed the lives of millions, our thoughts usually travel to the United States or Europe, due to the high level of investments. However, the Hispanic community has produced some of the most ingenious inventions of our lifetime. Let us surprise you.
Watching your next series, think fondly of Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena, a Mexican engineer that invented color TV. He developed the system in the 30s and applied for the patent in 1940. Camarena also invented a simplified color system that was used by NASA in 1979 to take pictures and videos of Jupiter.
A teacher in Galicia, Spain, Ángela Ruiz Robles invented the first mechanical book way back in 1949. She was looking for a way to allow her students to carry fewer books to and from classes, so she created a mechanical encyclopedia. It was described as “a mechanical, electric, and air-pressure driven method for reading books.” Although patented, Robles’s creation did not get the funding it needed to succeed, putting her among many on a list of lesser-known female inventors.
Your cellphone wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for Roberto Landell de Moura, a catholic priest from Brazil, who discovered a wireless telephone system. It was not an easy start. In 1895 a bishop witnessed a demonstration by Moura and declared the apparatus to be “the work of the devil.” Shortly after, some fanatics destroyed the lab. It took over 5 years for Moura to regroup.
First artificial heart
Visiting the Smithsonian Museum, don’t miss the plastic heart created by Dr. Domingo Liotta from Argentina. This artificial device was implanted in a human in 1969 and it kept him alive for three days until a human heart arrived. Unfortunately, the patient died shortly after but the first step was made.
Luis Miramontes, from the small town of Tepic in Mexico, is the man behind the contraceptive pill. This talented chemist was only 26 years old when he synthesized norethisterone, the basic compound of the contraceptive pill, later considered one of the most important molecules in the history of mankind.
Neonatal artificial bubble
Occasionally, miracles can occur in neonatal intensive care units, but it’s developments in technology that have made it easier for premature babies to survive. Peruvian engineer Claudio Castillón Lévano created a portable respirator and incubator for premature babies. This invention helps to save the lives of high-risk babies born before full-term gestation in neonatal intensive care (NICU). The first incubators were used in France in 1880, but Lévano’s design, called the Incuven, regulates temperature and reduces risk of contamination to babies. Incuven’s patent was published by the United States in 2004, after more than 20 years of research and work by Lévano and his associates.
How does a computer know if you are a human or not? Thanks to the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). The system was invented by a Guatemalan professor Luis von Ahn, who is also considered the inventor of crowdsourcing. He co-founded Duolingo as well.
Alejandro Zaffaroni from Uruguay is the father of controlled drug delivery methods. He invented the early concepts of transdermal patches. Thanks to him, nowadays, we can comfortably administer pain medications, antidepressants, hormones and… nicotine through the skin.
Another invention from Mexico is the Mondragón rifle, a semi-automatic weapon invented by Manuel Mondragón. Thanks to him, soldiers during the Mexican Revolution and during World War I didn’t need to manually remove the spent cartridges, making the whole process of shooting much faster. Maybe not the most humanity-friendly invention…
Device to measure the seismic waves
One of the most reliable systems to measure the intensity of the seismic tremors was invented by Chilean Arturo Arias in 1969. Nowadays, his contribution helps to determine risks and is used by engineers to measure the damage that an earthquake causes to buildings.