Eduard Slavoljub Penkala: The Inventive Mind Behind Everyday Essentials

I recall walking past a house in Zagreb marked by a plaque, and that’s when I first delved into the story of Eduard Slavoljub Penkala, a Croatian chemist and inventor of Polish descent. Penkala moved to Zagreb in 1900, and by 1904, he was already a royal technical inspector. He’s credited with around 80 inventions and innovations, enhancing our everyday lives, industries, and transport.

Among his patents were the thermos bottle and a rotating toothbrush, but his most celebrated invention was the mechanical pencil, registered in 1906. Later, he also invented the first fountain pen with solid ink. But Penkala didn’t stop there; in 1908, he began constructing an aircraft in Zagreb, designed for simplicity in operation, negating the need for specialized training.

His aviation innovation was patented in 1909, and the aircraft was completed a year later. He even built a hangar for airplanes at a military training ground between Selska Road and Črnomerec Creek. It was here that Dragutin Novak flew this airplane, becoming the first Croatian pilot.

Despite his efforts to enhance its flight capabilities, the aircraft remained challenging to control. In 1910, an accident damaged the plane, leading Penkala to cease further work on it.

Penkala’s first workshop, where he produced numerous inventions, was established at the then Trg cara Franje Josipa, now Trg kralja Tomislava, following his marriage. The Zagreb Aviation Association commemorated the 130th anniversary of Penkala’s birth with a memorial plaque on this house. Walking past that house, I felt a deep appreciation for Penkala’s ingenuity and his significant contributions to our daily lives.

Hi! My name is Ivan, and I'm an author of I have been photographing and exploring Zagreb for more than 15 years, and if you want to know more about me and, read the Introduction articles by clicking here.

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