Humanity's desire for knowledge has been always present in society, and the development of civilisation itself allowed the forming of higher education and universities since the end of the 12th century. Slovakia, a small country in the heart of Central Europe, has a long and rich history of research driven by the requirements of the given time.

When universities were formed worldwide, “Slovakia”, part of the former Kingdom of Hungary, was an agricultural country. Only when the precious mineral resources were found in the Slovakia region, intellectuals were invited to bring the technology of mining and processing of the resources.

Akademia Istropolitana

Continuous development of the technology conditioned demand for educated labour-workers capable of operating the most advanced equipment of the given time. Therefore, the first university was established on the territory of today's Slovakia, in 1465 – Akademia Istropolitana . The classes focused mainly on natural sciences, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Since the establishment of “Slovakia's” first university, other universities have been founded, such as Universitas Cassoviensis in 1657 (University in Košice).

Slovak Science in the 18th Century

Not only universities but also the first observatory was established by Samuel Mikovíni in 1733, in today’s capital city – Bratislava (at that time Prešporok/Pres­sburg). Later he put the foundations for the exact mapping of longitude and latitude of different cities. Considering the accessibility to higher education, the first development of technical inventions began. With the emphasis on obtaining mineral resources, the first invention was the mining pump – a compressed air pump developed by Jozef Karol Hell in 1737. This invention enlisted him into the annals of world technology. Not only the air pump, but also the device for air filtering/cleaning, and pumping the fresh air into the mines’ deeps, which led to improvements in working conditions. Another science pioneer, Ján Andrej Segner, the founder of the Segner wheel (1750), based the principles for the widely-used water turbines.

The first university of mining and the oldest technical university in the world was established at Banská Štiavnica on December 13th, 1762, by Empress Maria Theresa in order to train specialists in silver & gold mining and metallurgy for the mining industry. The original name of the university was Bergschule. Banská Štiavnica, a wealthy and influential town of that time, with rich mineral resources including gold and silver ore, had a high demand for qualified miners. The reputation of the mining school's quality was known in the whole country. Actual classes started in 1764 with the first 40 students. The technical school was still growing and developing with the department of chemistry and metallurgy, the department of mathematics, mechanics, hydraulics and mining engineering. Thanks to its reputation, the school was still growing and new departments were established, such as: department of mining wells, forestry, technical drawing, descriptive department of mineralogy, geology and palaeontology. Throughout its history, plenty of students graduated at the Bergschule and famous inventors and scholars were teaching there, such as Samuel Mikovíni, Mikuláš Jozef von Jacquin, Anton Leopold von Rupprecht, Christian Doppler (formulated principle of Doppler effect).

Slovak Science in the 19th and 20th Century

Almost 60 years after the first inventions in the Slovakia region, physicist Štefan Anián Jedlík brought the idea of the dynamo (1827) to create electrical energy from the mechanical energy, which led to the invention of the first electromotor, which is used till the present days. A few years later in 1840, the history of modern optics began with Jozef Maximilián Petzval, who created the camera lenses. In 1894, the concept of a helicopter powered by electromotor was created by Ján Bahýľ. The first helicopter had more of a vertical character than we are used in modern helicopters, it was 6,5 metres long and weighed only 50 kg. One of the most famous flights of Ján Bahýľ happened on the 5th of May 1905, when he travelled in the helicopter 1,5 km distance in the height of 4 metres.

One of the most famous Slovak inventors of all time is Jozef Murgaš (1864 – 1929) whose work significantly influenced the world as we know it. His name is connected with the first radio station, transmitting the Morse code wirelessly between 32 km distant towns, Wilkes-Barre (visited by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905) and Scranton, Pennsylvania. His work consists of more than 15 US patents including: constructing antennas for wireless telegraphy, electrical transformers, magnetic detectors, and wireless telegraphy. Even Thomas Edison noticed Murgaš's work and discussed it with Guglielmo Marconi.

One of the inventions, which was developed also for military purposes, represented the umbrella-like parachute, invented and patented by Štefan Banič (1914). There were also some cases of parachute testing, however, only Banič's parachute was functioning properly.

Following the tradition of Academia Istropolitana, Comenius University Bratislava was founded in 1919 and currently, it is the largest university in Slovakia. With the best reputation among Slovak universities, it provides a wide spectrum of study programmes covering medicine, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, mathematics, theology, and many other fields.

An interesting contribution to the family of musical instruments was made in the 1920s by a Slovak immigrant to the US, Ján Dopjera*, who patented a new type of guitar, a **resonant guitar named dobro. It was designed to be louder than classical guitar. However, they found their place in the music industry also for their distinctive sound. The name of the instrument is an abbreviation for “Dopjera Brothers” and the word dobro also means “good” in Slovak language. The company's motto was „Dobro means good in any language.“

In the late 1920s, another technical pioneer Aurel Stodola constructed one of the first heat pumps, which was already so advanced for its time, that one of his heat pumps is warming up town hall in Geneva until today. During his scientific career, not only heat pumps but also the theoretical/mat­hematical background to turbojets was developed by Aurel Stodola. However, research career started already during World War I, when due to many injuries, together with the surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch, they created the concept of prosthesis. The first artificial human hand “Stodola’s hand” was created in 1915, and used mainly muscular strength, not an external source of energy.

Another important person in the development of technologies in Slovakia was Peter Danišovič, who suggested the idea for the establishment of a technical university in Košice, which was accepted by parliament in 1937. After two years the university was moved to Bratislava, where Danišovič began to work. He left the school in 1947 and started to design water power plants and also on the construction of Gabčíkovo Dams, which was finished in 1992. Currently, the university is named Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. High demand for skilled engineers and scientists conditioned the establishment of new universities including technical universities in Košice and Zvolen. The first of its kind, and the only one until now, the University of Veterinary Medicine was founded in 1952 in Košice. In 1959, the Pavol Safarik University in Košice was established, with the support of Košice's technical university. In 1966, the University of Zilina was founded.

Low-temperature research is another bright example of Slovak science excellence. Moreover, low-temperature research is quite popular nowadays, since quantum computing technologies require low temperature and their development to common practise as well. Pioneers of the low temperatures physics of their era were situated in Košice, where one of the lowest temperatures in the universe was achieved. Starting its history low-temperature physics centre achieved less than 1 K temperature in 1971 (less than one degree above absolute zero). Later, construction of the equipment employing a so-called adiabatic nuclear demagnetisation temperature allowed to achieve 300 µK in 1992 and later only 50 µK above absolute zero. Such low temperatures allow us to study phenomena on the nuclear scale, uncovering the evolution of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang.

In 1974, the discovery, which is not exactly technology-related, but still famous mainly in Slovakia and surrounding countries, represents the non-alcoholic drink based on grapes – Vinea. Due to the export to the US, Vinea became a scarce good during the 1980s. This drink is being produced until today and is liked by Slovaks, and also the visitors of the country.

Current Era of Slovak Science

One of the advanced technologies, which started in 1990 and is still in the process of developing is AeroMobil designed by Štefan Klein. In 2013 AeroMobil version 2.5 executed the first flight, with a possible travelled distance of 700 km, and a speed of 200 km/h in the air.

In 1992, the ESET antivirus (originally known as NOD antivirus 1987) was developed by Miroslav Trnka. The name ESET can be found in ancient Egyptian mythology, where Eset was the goddess known as the healer of the sick. Today, the company supplies its software to more than 200 countries around the globe, and since 2019 the company has organised the ESET Science Award for exceptional scientists in Slovakia.

In recent years, green technologies have become trendy and important for modern society. This is why professor Pavol Alexy (STU Bratislava) created the bioplastic material called nonoilen in 2007. This material is made of renewable resources and is completely biodegradable. Moreover, nonoilen does not produce CO2 during the process of decomposition, thus it is not contributing to global warming. The development of this material came a long way, and nowadays, everyday objects such as cups, toothbrushes, and many more are already produced from nonoilen.

Continuing in green technology, the Ecocapsule company, based in Bratislava, presented an egg-shaped mobile home in 2015. Utilising solar and wind energy, and a shape which minimises surface-to-volume ratio (an important parameter from the heat loss point of view) the Ecocapsule represents a low-energy consumption mobile house. The house produces more power than it consumes between –5 °C to 50 °C, moreover, the internal battery can provide power for 4 days without its charging.

RVmagnetics as a Part of Slovak Science

Following a long history of education, science and the recent demand for green technologies another Slovak company, RVmagnetics, provides unique and advanced solutions in the area of sensing technologies. RVmagnetics is an R&D company founded by Rastislav Varga (2015), that developed the smallest passive sensor in the world – a MicroWire. MicroWire is a unique passive magnetic sensor, which can sense various physical properties from a distance of up to 10 cm. Furthermore, the MicroWire can be implemented inside of the materials, and also human tissues.

As can be expected, there are specialists, scientists, and engineers in Slovakia who will bring new ideas to the world and enrich Slovakia's current portfolio of inventions. Good idea Slovakia!


Author
Vladimir Marhefka
Vladimir holds position of Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors at RVmagnetics. In his current role he’s responsible for Strategy, Business Development and Marketing activities of the company. During 18+ years of experience he held executive, strategy and business development roles in various B2B industries, led international sales teams and lived in Spain and Australia. With the background in finance, Vladimir’s interest is in deeptech, international startups, and industrial IOT.