The term “Made in Sweden” probably conjures up images of IKEA, Alexander Skarsgård, and H&M. While these contributions are fantastic, many people don’t know that Sweden is quite the pioneer in science and technology, and Swedes have invented many practical things which we still use today. Here are six things that you (probably) didn’t know were Swedish.
1. THE CELSIUS SCALE
The Celsius temperature system was designed by Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius in the 1700s. The original system had a scale of 100 degrees, with 0 for the boiling point of water and 100 for its freezing point. After Celsius died, the centigrade scale was reversed, and the thermometer as we know it today was created. Another Swede, Carl Linnaeus, is accredited with reversing the scale to make it more practical.
2. THE COKE BOTTLE
It’s hard to overlook contributions made by Swedish-Americans, and few things are as iconic in the USA as the Coca-Cola bottle. Alexander Samuelson, a glass engineer from Gothenburg, is accredited with designing the Coca-Cola bottle we know today. When designing the bottle, he wanted it to be recognisable even if broken. As one of the most recognised packaging products in the world, it’s safe to say he succeeded in that!
It might seem weird that a famously neutral country such as Sweden would be home to the inventor of dynamite, but in his defence, it was an accident! While experimenting with explosive nitroglycerin in bottles, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel accidentally mixed it with the chemical protecting the bottles. The mixture resulted in a substance which was blast effective but safer to handle. Nobel named it dynamite, and used the money he earned from it to create what we all know now as the Nobel Foundation and the Nobel Prize.
Spotify seems to be taking over the world, with services in over 50 countries, but I remember when it was only available in Sweden and you had to have an invitation code to use it. This music streaming service was launched in October 2008 as a start-up in Stockholm and has expanded rapidly ever since to over 40 million users.
We all knew Swedes had a knack for catchy pop, but it seems they also have a talent for music technology. SoundCloud, a music distribution software, was created by Swedish sound designer Alex Ljung and Swedish artist Eric Wahlforss in Stockholm in 2007. It was designed with the intention of allowing musicians to share their recordings with each other, but it transformed into a full publishing tool which also allowed musicians to distribute their music tracks. Now based in Berlin, SoundCloud now has over 200 million listeners.
6. THE ZIPPER
Swedes may not have invented jeans, but they invented one of the most important elements of them. The modern-day zipper as we know it features interlocking teeth pulled together and apart by a slider and was developed by Swedish-American inventor Gideon Sundbäck. It was improved upon from a less effective model in 1913 and the redesigned version was patented in 1917.
I write this while wearing H&M jeans and drinking out of an IKEA coffee mug, and I love these Swedish-designed products, but it is also important to recognise Sweden’s contributions to the world in science and technology. For a small country, it has contributed disproportionally in these fields and continues to impress the world with their innovative exports.