A vintage vehicle in the race to Ljubelj Pass

Photo: Luka Dakskobler

Jurij Vega, Edvard Rusjan, Janez Puh, and Herman Potočnik are just some of the Slovenian scientists who pushed the technological limits of what is possible.

Jurij Vega  is the most famous mathematician that Slovenia has ever produced. His essential contribution to scientific knowledge, one that is recognised the world over, was to improve the accuracy and usefulness of logarithmic tables – which continued to be used as an aid to calculation right up until the mid-twentieth century. His most complete work, published in 1794, was his great Latin and German Thesaurus Logarithmorum Completus, a "Treasury of all Logarithms" calculated to ten decimal places. A year earlier he had published a handbook of logarithms calculated to seven decimal places. Vega recruited military cadets and his brother officers to help him with his work, which continued without check even in wartime. The number of identified editions of Vega's log tables in which he is credited as author exceeds 100. Many more editions exist in which his name is not mentioned. Even in as late as 1962, an edition of his great treasury appeared in the USA under the title Ten-Place Logarithms

Edvard Rusjan was a world aviation pioneer who made his first flight at Male Rojce near Gorizia on 25 November 1909 in a biplane of his own design called EDA I, which he built together with his brother.  Herman Potočnik  was a space pioneer whose book The Problem of Space Travel selectively synthesised practically all important ideas and experiences in this field into a complete system. Originally published in Berlin in 1929 as Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums, the book appeared under the pseudonym Hermann Noordung. Among other things, Potočnik's book discussed geostationary satellites and a space station in a gravity-free orbit around the Earth. The American geostationary telecommunications satellite SYNCON, launched in 1963, occupied exactly the same position as that calculated by Potočnik. The famous aerospace engineer and rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun, who recognised in Potočnik's work the fundamental principles of space travel, said of his predecessor: "The distance and the approximate point in space were determined with amazing precision as early as 1929 by a captain in the Austrian army, Herman Potočnik," adding that the latter's book "marks a turning point in space and rocket technology".

Text by Tanja Glogovčan