CROWN - Croatian World Network -
Croatia 2 - 1 England at the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Moscow
By Nenad N. Bach and Darko Žubrinić
Published on 07/11/2018
Croatian win in the semifinal match with England at the FIFA World Cup 2018 has shown that the claim that Croatia is a small country is ridiculous. Croatia was for the first time recognized by the Roman Pope already in the 9th century, or more precisely, in 879. Rugjer Bošković (Ruggero Boscovich, on the photo), distinguished Croatian polymath and Jesuit from the 18th century, predicted the existence of nuclear forces almost two centuries before their discovery. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and the greatest acclaim of this scholar came from England and France.

Croatia a small nation? Winning England, Russian Federation, Argentina, Denmark, Iceland, Nigeria

National anthems of Croatia and England
One can see the Croatian Coat of Arms.

Ruđer Bošković (1711-1787),
Croatian polymath and Jesuit,
Fellow of the Royal Society in London

The greatest and most famous Croatian philosopher and scientist Rudjer Boskovic (Boscovich, 1711-1787), was born in Dubrovnik, where he was educated in the Jesuit Collegium. He was a member of the Royal Society of London, a member of St.Petersbug Academy, "membre correspondant" of the French Academie Royale des Sciences, a member of the Accademia dell'Arcadia, a professor at many European universities. Very delicate work on repairing the cupola of St. Peter's church in the Vatican (diameter: 42m) was entrusted to R. Boskovic, a proof that he was a leading European authority for static computations and civil engineering of that time. Upon the request of Austrian Empress Maria Theresia, Boskovic was solving the problem of stability of Royal Library (now National Library) in Vienna.

Rudjer Boskovic

Portrait of Boskovic by the English painter Edge Pine (London, 1760).

He was also the founder of the astronomical observatory in Brera near Milan. In 1773 a charter granted by Louis XV made him a French subject. Soon he was appointed by Louis XV to a very prestigious position and became the Director of Naval Optics of the French Navy in Paris (Optique Militaire de la Marine Royale de France). He left to his adoptive country an achromatic telescope and micrometer. Boskovic spent nine years in France, and became a good friend to many outstanding scientist, like the mathematician Clairaut, Lalande, Buffon. When D'Alembert took him for Italian, he hastened to correct him.

Boskovic stayed 7 months in England and met many famous scientists there: James Bradley (famous astronomer), George Parker (president of the Royal Academy), Samuel Johnson (Lexicographer), Edmund Burke (philosopher and political writer), Joshua Reynolds (the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts), and others. It is interesting that in England he designed a telescope filled with water in all its components, which was implemented at the Greenwich observatory in 1871, that is, 84 years after his death. He also met Benjmanin Franklin, who showed him some of his electrical experiments, see an article by Branko Franolic.

A detail from the Jesuit Collegium where R. Boskovic was educated,
17th century, representing coat of arms of
the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia,

Boskovic was also a brilliant Croatian Latinist poet. He wrote an extensive scientific epic De solis et lunae defectibus (On Solar and Lunar Eclipse) published in London in 1760. It contains 5570 Latin verses, and was dedicated to the Royal Society of England whose member he was. In the title one can read "Father r. Boskovic, of the Jesuit Order", although at that time it was forbidden for Jesuits to live and work in England. The epic was written in the manner of Roman classics, in dactilus hexameter.

For more information see Latin as literary language among the Croats

When Charles Burney, a well known English musicologist, met Boskovic in Milan, he wrote: ...if all Jesuits were like this father, who uses the higher science and the work of mind to advance science for the happiness of mankind, then it were to be wished that this society were as durable as is this world. Boskovic was buried in the church of S. Maria Podone in Milano.

Rudjer Boskovic

French astronomer Joseph-Jerome de Lalande wrote the following lines in his book Voyage en Italie:

Le plus grand mathematicen que l'aie connu a Rome est M. Boscovich, alors jesuite: il est ne a Raguse en 1711, mais il vint a Rome etant encore fort jeune, et apres avoir longtemps professe les mathematiques au college romain il fut fait professeur a Milan et ensuite a Pavie; mais l'on voyait avec peine des talents superieurs comme les siens, concentres dans cette derniere ville; non seulement il n'y a personne en Italie dont les ouvrages soient aussi celebres dans toute l'Europe que les siens, mais je ne connais pas de geometre plus spirituel et plus profond que lui. Sa mesure de la terre, son beau traite sur la loi de la pesanteur, ses decouvertes sur la lumiere et sur diverses parties de la physique, de l'astronomie, de la geometrie, son poeme sur les eclipses, imprime e Londres, a Venise et a Paris, peuvent doner une idee du nombre et de l'etendue de ses talents; mais il faut l'avoir connu particulerement, pour savoir combien il a de genie, combien son caractere est aimable, sa conversation interessante, et ses idees sublimes dans tout les genres. En 1773, il a ete appele en France et naturalise Francais. Il est actuellement [1784] a Bassano, occupe a faire imprimer ses nouveaux ouvrages, en cinq volumes.

William Thompson-Kelvin, the English physicist (19/20 centuries), once expressed his opinion that his atomic theory is a pure "Boskovicianism." Still earlier, Sir Humphry Davy, professor of physics and chemistry at the Royal Institution in London from 1802 till 1827, mentioned the name of Boskovic on several occasions in his Diary (Commonplace Book), accepting his atomistic theory. The diary is kept in the archives of the Royal Institution in London. Also a famous Irish mathematician and physicist R.W. Hamilton wrote extensively about Boskovic's theory of forces.

With his theory of forces R. Boskovic was a forerunner of modern physics for almost two centuries. It was described in his most important book Theoria Philosophiae naturalis (Vienna 1758, Venice 1763, London 1922, American edition in 1966).

Werner Heisenberg (Nobel prize for physics in 1932) wrote the following:

Among scientists from the 18th century Boskovic occupies outstanding place as a theologian, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. His "Theoria philosophiae naturalis" announced hypotheses which were confirmed only in the course of last fifty years.
Indeed, see his graph of regions of attractive and repelling forces between material points (elementary particles), the closest region being repelling, tending to infinity (nuclear force!; see here; published in his Dissertationes de lumine pars secunda, 1748), and the farthest region is repelling, corresponding to gravitational force:

Rugjer Boskovic's unified theory of forces (nuclear, gravitational,...)

This graph was since 1763 called the Boskovic curve (curva Boscovichiana).

Rudjer Boskovic was the discoverer of the principle of determinisum, 56 earlier than P.S. Laplace. Moreover, Boscovich's approach is more precise, complete and comprehensive than Laplace's. See Boris Krzljak.

Robert Marsh, the author of Physics and Poets, credits Boskovic with the idea of FIELD. Faraday and others took the idea from him, see here. He was the first to apply probability to the theory of errors. Laplace and Gauss acknowledged their indebtedness to his work which led to the Legendre principle of least squares in statistics (stating that the best fitting line is the one with the smallest sum of squared residuals).

Interior of Franciscan monastery in Dubrovnik (photo by Najka Mirkovic)

He was also very active in astronomy and diplomacy. A great many letters sent to his sister and two brothers written in Croatian witness that he did not neglect his mother tongue. So in one of his letters he wrote that in one of European cities he saw soldiers - "our Croats" (nase Hrvate).

Interior of Franciscan monastery in Dubrovnik (photo by Mladen Zubrinic)

He also wrote poetry. Most of his manuscripts are kept in the special Boskovic Archives in the Rare Books library in Berkeley, University of California, USA:
  • altogether 180 items and including 66 scientific treatises, plus
  • rich correspondence comprising over 2,000 letters, among others with D'Alambert, Lagrange, Laplace, Jacobi and Bernoulli; he had intense correspondence with his friend Voltaire.

A portrait of Boskovic, published in Milano in 1818 in a collection of famous
people living between 18th century the beginning of the 19th.
(many thanks to Dr Luca Leoni, Italy, for the photo)

Signature of Ruge Boscovich from one of his letters written in Croatian,
sent to his sister Anica. Source Roger Boscovich, the eighteenth-century polymath,
lecture of Ivica Martinovic at the Royal Society in London, 2013.

Some of his books, articles and letters, together with other documents, are kept in the famous Franciscan monastery (Samostan Male Brace) in Dubrovnik. Its library possesses 30,000 volumes, 22 incunabula, 1,500 valuable handwritten documents. It was severely damaged in the aggression in 1991/92 (shelled by the Serbian Army - 37 direct hits).

Franciscan monastery in Dubrovnik (photo by Najka Mirkovic)

The names of Rudjer Boskovic and Marin Getaldic (Ghetaldus) appear on an extensive list of the Chronology of Mathematics, where you can find additional biographical sources related to Boskovic held in the USA and UK.

One of the greatest English 20th century novelists Aldous Huxley, in Antic Hay (1923) mentions Boskovic, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Haendel.

Rudjer Boskovic, Gelehrter und Diplomat, by Kresimir Veselic, Hagen, Germany

Rudjer Boskovic, numerous links

Cornelia Wright (1757-1837), an English writer, in her "Autobiography' left us important information about Raymund Kunic (Croatian latinist and grecist), whom she met in Rome. She also met Rugjer Boskovic in Paris, whom she admired as a "mathematician and astronomer and as a good Latin poet who like many of his countrymen had the gift of composing Latin verse with facility'. It is very likely due to her acquaintance with Kunic that the first translation of a Croatian poem into English arose (a poem by Ignjat Gjurgjevic, translated into English from its Latin translation).

Croatian writer Vojmil Rabadan wrote a poem Carmen Boscovichianum iliti Spomen mali velikom nam Rudi (on the occasion of 200 years since the death of Ruđer Josip Bošković, SJ), Zagreb 1987. Inspired by this text, maestro Boris Papandopulo composed a cantata. Source Valentin Pozaić.

A Croatian Jesuit Mark Antun de Dominis (born as Marko Domnianich on the island of Rab, 1560-1624) ranked among the greatest European philosophers and scientist of his time. His career of a university professor started in Padova. He was especially esteemed in England, where he was invited by king James I. There he lived at the Court of the Archbishop of Canterbury and was appointed to be the Windsor Dean and the king's chancellor.

Marko Antonio de Dominis

Dominis arrived to London in December 1616 with a great pomp after his apostasy from Rome. Four days after the spectacular welcome, Dominis was placed fifth place next to King James. This meant, according to the protocol of the time, that he was fifth in the hierarchy of the state. In 1617 he was lecturing in Cambridge and Oxford. In Cambridge he was awarded the title of doctor of divinity. His sermons in London were printed in Italian, English and Latin. His book "The Ecclesiastical State" was printed in Latin in England, with permission of the King.

It is interesting that Dominis introduced the word "puritan" into English in its modern meaning, which was earlier used only in theological literature and had a very narrow meaning.

His work in physics was cited in I. Newton's book "The optics" published in 1704 (page 147). Among other things he contributed to the explanation of the phenomenon of the double rainbow. His theory of tides was based on the idea of attractive force between the Moon and the Earth, which was later made precise in Newton's theory of gravitation. He also discovered the phenomenon of diffraction of white light (see G. Hund's "Geschite der Physik"). However, his main preoccupation was the problem of European peace and the reform of the Church. In 1618 his work "The Rocks of Christian Shipwrecke" was printed first in Italian, and then in English. It was held an important apologetic work of Protestant theology, and was soon translated into French. It was read throughout Europe.

After six years of stay in England his relation with the Anglican Church and the King himself cooled down, though he had given the Anglican Church one of the most important doctrinal weapons (for more details see [Mardesic], p. 162).

His work "De Republica Ecclesiastica", which was published in ten books in London, brought him the anathema of Rome. He was imprisoned by Inquisition and when he died, the burial of his body was not allowed. It was burnt, together with his manuscripts, on the square of Campo dei Fiori in Rome, where Giordano Bruno had been burnt twenty four years earlier.
Branko Franolic: Two Croatian refugees at St. James’s Court at the beginning of the 17th century

Markantun Dominis taught poetics in Verona, mathematics in Padova, philosophy and rhetoric in Rome and Brescia. His position in Padova was later filled by Galileo Galilei. (see [Marianna D. Birnbaum, p. 362])

Milka Trnina (or Ternina, 1863-1941); according to Giacomo Puccini, author of the famous opera Tosca, she was the best "Tosca" that he had opportunity to listen to (on the London premire in 1900); see Milka Ternina at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; only in Convent Garden in London Milka had 56 performances between 1895 and 1906. Also, she was the first Tosca in Great Britain and in the United States.

Milka Trnina

She sang at the ceremony of coronation of the Russian Tsar Nikolai II. One of the waterfalls of the Plitivice Lakes (a famous National Park in Croatia) is named after Trnina already in 1898. In 2005/2006, Lady Jadranaka Beresford-Peirse organized an exhibition at the Royal Opera House in London, dedicated to Milka Ternina. See also the following monograph:

Nada Premerl: Milka Ternina and the Royal Opera House (in English and Croatian), Muzej Grada Zagreba, Zagreb 2006. ISBN 953-6942-24-0

1898 Charter from the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb conferring honorary membership to Milka Trnina (source [Premerl, p 86]), containing the Croatian Coat of Arms

Did You know that the name of the famous MILKA chocolate, Switzerland, had been given in honour to Milka Trnina, Croatian opera diva?

Oscar Nemon (1906-1985), outstanding sculptor and medallist, was born in Croatian town Osijek, and has Jewish roots (Oscar Neumann). Having obtained his baccalaureate in Osijek, in 1923 he moved to Vienna. He was inspired and supported by Ivan Mestrovic, a great Croatian sculptor.

In 1931 Nemon made a portrait of Sigmund Freud in person, for which Freud said to be "...a very good and astonishingly lifelike impression of me". After a short stay in Paris, having obtained bursary from his native city of Osijek, he went to Brussels in 1925, to study at the Academie des Beaux Arts. He stayed in touch with Osijek, and made for the city the monument "June Victims", commemorating the murder three Croatian members in the ex-Yugoslav Parliamnet in Belgrade in 1928, among them Stjepan Radic. In Burssels he made busts of King Albert I, Queen Astrid, and Auguste Vermeylen, a notable historian of the Flemish School of Painting.

Oscar Nemon portraying Sigmund Freud in 1931, source

In 1938, due to the Nazi invasion of Belgium, he fled to England, and lived in Oxford. During the WWII a larger part of his family perished in the Holocaust, including his mother and brother. In subsequent years he made sculptures of many distinguished persons, like Winston Churchil (in 1965, upon the invitation of the British Government, and on the occasion of his death), Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mother (upon her request), Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Viscount Montgomery (of Alamein), Harold Macmillan, Margaret Thatcher, etc. It is interesting that Winston Churchil in return made his amateur sculpture of Oscar Nemon.

In 1981 he made a bronze relief for Canterbury Cathedral. His last major work was a National Air Force Memorial for the city of Toronto, Canada, unveiled by The Queen in Toronto in 1984.

For his exceptional achievements the University of St. Andrews in 1977 conferred Oscar Nemon an Honorary Doctorate of Letters. On the occasion of his death, a memorial retrospective exhibition of his works was organized in 1985 in Croatia, in his native city of Osijek.

Oscar Nemon's sculpture of Churchill and Churchill's sculpture of Nemon.
They sculptured each other simultaneously.

Some web pages wrongly indicate that Nemon was born in (ex) Yugoslavia, which at that time did not exist. Nemon was born in Croatia, then a constituent of Austria-Hungary.

  • Dalibor Prancevic: Zanemareni kipar Oscar Nemon, [PDF] (Neglected sculptor Oscar Nemon, in Croatian), Kvartal II - 4, Zagreb, 2005., pp 10-14.
  • Branko Franolic: Oscar Nemon (1906-1985), Croatian sculptor in Britain, Croatian Times (Omaha, Nebraska, USA), Issue 15, March 1997


Eduard (Slavoljub) Penkala (1871-1922), born in Slovakia to a Polish/Dutch family, became naturalized Croat when after his marriage his family immigrated to Zagreb. He invented the mechanical pen in 1906 and fountain pen in 1907 which are bearing his name "penkala" and now they are in everyday use.

Eduard Penkala, inventor of fountain pen

Indeed, the name of "penkala" is in use also today for the chemical pen. The patent was registered in thirty-five countries throughout the world.

PenkalaPenkalaPenkala advertisment, Berlin, 1911 (from the book Penkala by M. Tischler)

He was also one of the first constructors of planes (Zagreb, 1910), only seven years after brothers Wright.

Penkala's plane, Zagreb, 1910

His first invention was a resin bottle filled with hot water, called Termofor (hot water bottle), used in bed as "central heating" during cold nights.

Penakla (from the book Penkala by M. Tischler)

Penkala invented a new plastic mass substance called ebonite, and used it for production of gramophone records. He then signed a contract with the Edison-Bell company, England, and a new company Edison-Bell-Penkala Ltd. was founded in Zagreb which started the production of gramophone records based on his original technology.

The Penkala factory in Zagreb in 1912, Branimirova street, had about 300 employees, with canteen, kindergaten, swimming pool, and even a football club Penkala. It was among largest factories for office equipment in the world.

Ivana Brlic Mazuranic (1874-1938) is a very well known name among Croatian children. She wrote beautiful books of Croatian fairy tales, the most famous being Price iz davnine (Tales of Long Ago) that appeared in Zagreb in 1916. It was translated from Croatian into English by F.S. Copeland under the title:

Croatian Tales of Long Ago
Iv. Berlic Mazuranic

and published in 1924. in London by George Alen & Unwin Ltd (260 pp, hardcover).

For more photos see Yale University Library

Villa Ruzic in Rijeka and Croatian Tales of Long Ago by Ivana Brlic Mazuranic

These stories have become popular worldwide due to recent fantastic flash-art presentations, initiated by Helena Bulaja, Zagreb. See for example Neva, music and animation by Ed Beals.

Books of Ivana Brlic Mazuranic were translated into all major world languages (more information in Croatian). Except in English, there exist also translations into

  • Swedish (Stockholm, 1928)
  • Danish (Kopenhagen, 1929/30)
  • Czech (Prague, 1930)
  • Russian (Zagreb [!], Skazki davnyago vremeni, 1930)
  • Slovakian (T. sv. Martin, 1931)
  • German (Salzburg, 1933)
  • ...
  • Chinese (1957)

Today (in 2018) we know of as many as 60 (sixty) translations of Croatian Tales of Long Ago into various languages throughout the world.

Jelko Yuresha Croatian ballet prodigy at the Royal Ballet in London since 1962

Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
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