On the Latvian Inventions and Inventors
A labour-consuming and significant work has been done in the Latvian Academy of Sciences: both Latvian and English reading Internet Web users now can obtain systematic information about a great deal of the inventions developed in Latvia and their authors. The new Web site provides an insight into the past and present of the Latvia's inventing potential and allows making some prognosis about the future.
Where do outstanding inventions arise - in a state or a small country? The Baltic German Walter Zapp who was born in Riga created his world-famous miniature camera «Minox» in the Baltics thus making the name of VEF known all over the world. The Latvian Juris Upatnieks created his numerous inventions in holography in USA, but another Latvian Rudolfs Udris (his name can not be found in the web pages yet) developed his "discovery of the century" in the technology of organic chemistry – a method for simultaneous production of phenol and acetone – in the Stalin's Gulag, applying for the authors' certificates of USSR only after he was discharged from prison. So the histories of the inventions differ, but this research already is an evidence of the fact that great inventions are created not only in large states.
The initiative of the Soros Foundation to create such an Web site system is very praiseworthy. Many inventors included in the web page as well as our distinguished artists and athletes have promoted the name of the small Latvian State and its nation in the world and "created its image" . I would like to remind that the Latvian Academy of Sciences and the Latvian Science Council have collected information in English about the most outstanding modern Latvian scientists. As many of them also have been inventors both pages supplement each other.
In his four books Benjamin Joffe once considered almost every invention created in Latvia that have received the authors' certificate of USSR. A thorough selection has been done in this web page taking into consideration the implementation level, the number of patent documents, recognitions received in the Soviet period, etc. It should be marked that the selection is objective and many-sided enough if analysed from the perspective of the branch representation. I hope, however, that this work will be continued and that with time it will be possible to find information also about other inventors of Latvian origin there. As examples along with the legendary Rudolfs Udris I would like to mention the late wood chemist Arvids Kalnins and such well-known inventors in the field of medicine as Viktors Kalnberzs and Leonids Roze. The potential of inventors has not been exhausted. I hope that on the basis of this Web page a good book will be published soon. Still the material collected up to now gives the ground for the discussions among the historians of science and technique on the issue which outstanding Latvian inventors can be included in the category of those who have left a recognizable impact on the world's technologies and technique. Especially today it is very important to know our inventors and to celebrate them as we can clearly feel that the future of Latvia first of all should be based on our intellect - both creative and scientific (scientists, writers, artists) as well as technical (new inventions and their implementation).
There is one more - perhaps even more essential - importance of this Web site, i.e. I would like to believe that it would arise the interest of the Latvian pupils (the most frequent Internet "navigators" ), besides not only to perfect their knowledge but also to examine themselves in the field of inventing. I express my belief that the new edisons and their inventions will be created here in Latvia. The Latvia of the 21st century may not become an area where nothing is invented.
With the best wishes for this Web site, its authors and users,
Riga, November 29, 1999
Dr. Janis Stradins
President of the Latvian Academy of Sciences