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10 fascinating facts about the Czechs

Published on February 06th, 2014 in Basics


1. In 1823, fingerprints were first recognized as a form of identification by Jan Evangelista Purkyně, a Czech.



Left: A page from Purkyně's Thesis (image courtesy of  |  Jan Evangelista Purkyně, c.1856 (photo courtesy of



2. In 1841, the sugar cube was invented in the Czech Republic by Jakub Kryštof Rad.


Sugarcubes (photo courtesy of



3. In 1892, Daniel Swarovski, a Czech, revolutionized the costume jewelry industry when he invented an electric device for machine-cut faceted beads and stones resembling precious gems, resulting in extremely sharp edges on each facet that create rainbow-colored refractions.


Daniel Swarovski in his laboratory, c.1892 (photo courtesy of



4. In 1907, classification of human blood into four types (A, B, AB & O) was initiated by Jan Janský, a Czech.


Commemorative silver medal (photo courtesy of



5. In 1913, Baťa Shoes, the largest shoe manufacturer in the world, was started in the Czech Republic by Tomáš Baťa. They now have nearly 5,000 international retail locations and service over a million customers per day. If you want to visit the Baťa museum, however, you’ll have to go to Canada, as the founder emigrated there before World War II.



Left: Advertisement in periodical, 1935 (photo courtesy of  |  Right: Bat'a, Wenceslas Square, 1940 



6. Until WWII, Czechs drove on the left side of the street, just as in Great Britain. When Hitler invaded in 1939 he changed it to the right side. After the war ended, the Czechs never bothered to change it back again. As a result, if you go to the National Technical Museum you’ll see several cars with steering wheels on the right-hand side.



Left: Look, he's on the wrong side! (Tatra 77 Advertisement, c.1930)  |  Right: Educational Poster: Saftey in the Streets, 1939



7. In 1949, Ivana Trump (maiden name Zelníčková) was born in the industrial town of Zlín. As an alternate member of the Czechoslovakian Olympic ski team in 1968, she defected to America and went on to marry “The Donald” in 1977 – and to famously divorce him in 1992.


 Ivana Trump, Czech Native, c.1990 (photo courtesy of



8. In 1961, the first modern gel-based contact lenses were invented by Otto Wichterle, a Czech, on a homemade apparatus using a child’s building set.



Left: The first contact lens machine, made from merkur toy set,1963  |  Right: Otto Wichterle (photo courtesy of



9. In 1966, the plastic explosive Semtex was invented by Stanislav Brebera, a Czech.


Stanislav Brebera (photo courtesy of



10. The Czech Republic boasts the largest per capita beer consumption in the world, at 132 liters (about 35 gallons) in 2010. That’s far more than the runner-up, Germany (107 liters), and almost twice that of the US (78 liters) and the UK (74 liters). The average Czech beer is usually served by the half-liter, so that works out to about 264 individual beers per person – and actually quite a bit more, since the overall figure includes a significant portion of the population who are too young to drink beer. Believe it or not, the annual consumption rate has dropped considerably since 2006, when Czechs consumed 163.5 liters (about 43 gallons) per person! 



Beer Juror, 1963 (photo courtesy of ČTK / Czech News Agency)  |  Right: Beer Meister, 1969 (photo courtesy of ČTK / Czech News Agency)