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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inventive Look At the History Of Technology

Elvis was Russian. Well, not really, of course, but in his soul. In the judgment of the Russian chapter of the Elvis Presley Fan Club, only Russians can truly understand The King. Americans, they say, with their customary disrespect for cultural icons, have profaned Elvi's image with their Elvis impersonators, Elvis Wedding Temples in Las Vegas - they've even put him on a stamp. As if he were Lenin or something.


Granted, the Elvis Presley Fan Club here is not exactly a mass movement, but this Russian tendency toward cultural appropriation extends to other spheres as well and is taking on alarming proportions.


Take the light bulb - also known as "Russian light". According to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, it was invented in 1875 by Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov, much to the surprise, I'm sure, of Thomas Alva Edison, who invented much the same thing a few years later. Poor man. All that work, when he could have just strolled down to the local univermag and picked up a few Russian lights. On the other hand, given the trouble we have buying light bulbs around here, maybe it was just as easy to start from scratch.


Fans of the Gutenberg Bible, meanwhile, may be shocked to know that Ivan Fyodorov is hailed in Russia as the inventor of the printing press. He lived about a century later than Johannes Gutenberg, it's true, but primacy, in my opinion, has always been highly overrated in the inventing world.


And while Orville and Wilbur Wright were hurling themselves from the sand dunes in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, conducting dangerous and silly experiments in flight, the first airplane had already been invented by Alexander Fyodorovich Mozhaisky.


If they had been listening to their wireless (invented, not by Marconi, but by Alexander Stepanovich Popov) they might have heard of the Russian's flying machine, and saved themselves a few bumps and bruises.


On the other hand, even the old Soviet encyclopedia had to acknowledge that Mozhaisky's invention had a drawback. It didn't actually fly. That is, "no official records have survived recording the flight" of the machine. and if we're giving awards for the best design of a flying apparatus on paper, then I'm rooting for Leonardo da Vinci.


And did you know that Venice's Piazza San Marco was modeled on Red Square?


Who knows, maybe they're right. Given Russian ingenuity in coping with various technical failures, I can concede that airplanes, lightbulbs and the like could have sprung from these lands. Russia did get a man into space first. and Westerners have to concede that the Periodic Table of Elements was developed by Mendeleyev.


But an invention here and there, or a few architectural nuggets scattered across the globe are nothing compared to the truly earth-shattering news that Russia invented baseball. Yes, that's right. They called it lapta, and, as any Russian school child can tell you, Western imperialists stole the game and renamed it, variously, cricket or baseball.


In the interests of fairness, perhaps we should rework a few popular sayings to reflect our growing cultural awareness. "As American as lapta and apple pie", for example, or "That's just not lapta, old boy".