Scientific activities in Croatia are carried out in universities and their component departments, by the scientific institutes, as well as by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 2010, over 11,000 scientists and researchers were employed in 234 scientific and research institutions; in that year, they published 10,014 scientific and research papers.
The largest science and art institution is the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU), founded in Zagreb in 1866, thanks to the efforts of the Bishop of Đakovo, Josip Juraj Strossmayer (1815–1905). It was called the Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts (JAZU). Its main task was to encourage and organise Croatian scientists, artists and those engaged in cultural activities and to promote their work abroad. The Academy is divided into nine departments, and several scientific institutes. It also operates a library, the Strossmayer Gallery of Old Masters, a Glyptotheque, a Graphics Office and Archives.
The largest scientific and research institution in Croatia is the Ruđer Bošković Institute, founded in 1950, which operates in the area of research in the natural sciences. Among other notable institutes are the Croatian Engineering Institute, the Ivo Pilar Institute of Social Sciences, the Institute for Ethnology and Folklore, the Institute of Physics of the University of Zagreb, the Institute for Croatian Language and Philology, the Croatian Institute for History, the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health, the Economics Institute, the Institute for Art History, the Institute for Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, the Agricultural Institute in Osijek, etc.
The first major contribution to Western European scholarship was made by Herman Dalmatin in the 12th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Croatian scientists worked in European centres. In the 16th century the Zadar doctor and physicist Frederik Grisogono produced a valuable theory on tides and promoted astrological medicine. In the same century, the astronomers and natural philosophers Nikola Nalješković, Nikola Vitov Gučetić, Miho Monaldi and Antun Medo were working in Dubrovnik, while the foremost Croatian philosopher and scientist was Frane Petrić. In the 17th century, the theologian and scientist Markantun de Dominis from Rab wrote on optics and the tides. Marin Getaldić contributed to world mathematics, and the inventor Faust Vrančić made the first parachute. The central figure of the 18th century was Ruđer Bošković, with his natural philosophy. In the 19th century, several scientists worked in Hungary and Slovakia, among them the astronomer and mathematician Mirko Danijel Bogdanić and the physicist Franjo Josip Domin. In the early 20th century, the geophysicist Andrija Mohorovičić made a great contribution to world science, as did the palaeontologist Dragutin Gorjanović-Kramberger, whose interpretation of his findings concerning prehistoric people in Krapina placed him among the founders of world palaeoanthropology. In that period, the unique figure of Nikola Tesla stood out as an inventor and scientist. During the 20th century, eminent scientists were at work in Croatia and abroad, for example the physicist Ivan Supek, and the Nobel prize winners Ružička and Prelog, and the tradition is continued today by Miroslav Radman and Ivan Đikić (chemistry), Davor Pavuna and Marin Soljačić (physics) and many others.
Herman Dalmatin (c.1110–43), philosopher, theologian, astronomer and translator. He translated Arabic astronomy and astrology texts into Latin, and was the first person to begin translating the Qur’an. He translated Ptolemy’s Planisphaerium and revised a translation of Euclid’s Elements. His major work was De essentiis, in which he set forth his own philosophical system.
Benedict Kotruljević (c.1416–69), diplomat and writer; moved to Naples in 1453. He was the author of the first systematic European work on trade (On Trade and the Perfect Trader), and the first to write about double-entry bookkeeping.
Frane Petrić (Franciscus Patricius) (1529–97), philosopher and polymath. He worked in Modena, Ferrara and Rome, where he taught philosophy as a Neo-Platonist and as an opponent of Aristotelianism. He had a significant influence on the emergence of new Western European branches of science and philosophy. In his works, he dealt with other branches of knowledge (geometry and the history of war).
Marin Getaldić (Marinus Ghetaldus) (1568–1626), mathematician and physicist. He significantly influenced the developement of applied algebra in geometry. He constructed the first parabolic mirror. He cooperated with the mathematicians François Viète in France and Galileo Galilei in Italy.
Ruđer Josip Bošković (1711–87), physicist, mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. He was a Jesuit, professor of mathematics in Rome, Pavia and Milan, and Director of Optics for the French Navy in Paris. He was a member of the Royal Society in London. His major work was the Theory of Natural Philosophy, in which he constructed an original theory about forces and the structure of materials, which has received many affirmations through the discoveries of modern science. He published many works describing original discoveries in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, geophysics and archaeology, and made many different optical, astronomical and geodetic instruments. He carried out expert projects in hydro-technology, geodesy, cartography, statics and measuring (he fixed the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Cathedral in Milan).
Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), inventor. In 1884 he moved to the USA, where he set up his own laboratory and patented over 700 inventions, several of which are crucial to the way we live, and are still in use today (the entire system of producing, transporting and using multi-phase alternating current, radar, transformers, remote control, etc.). Most of his inventions were purchased by the Westinghouse Company. The hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls was built in 1895 according to his alternating current system, the first in the USA to enable distant towns to be illuminated. Thanks to Tesla, the hydroelectric plant on the River Krka near Šibenik was built in the same year, the oldest in Europe. A unit of magnetic induction, the tesla (T), was named after him. He is often referred to as the ‘man who invented the 20th century’. In 2006, a memorial centre, including the house in which Tesla was born, was opened in Smiljan near Gospić.
Andrija Mohorovičić (1857–1936), geophysicist. From 1892 he was the Director of the Meteorological Observatory in Zagreb. He worked in meteorology and seismology and introduced the exact time service. His contribution to world science was his discovery in the Earth’s core of the Mohorovičić discontinuity (Moho), which leads to an acceleration in the spread of shock waves. His discovery enabled the epicentres of earthquakes to be located precisely.
Lavoslav Ružička (1887–1976), chemist. From 1912 he was professor and principal at the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich. His reputation was the result of research into many organic syntheses and his work on steroids and sex hormones. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1939. A memorial museum to Ružička in his home town of Vukovar was opened in 1977, destroyed during the Serbian siege of the town, and renovated in 2007.
Vladimir Prelog (1906–98), chemist. He was professor and principal at the Zagreb Technical Faculty in the Institute for Organic Chemistry, and in 1941 moved to Zurich, where he succeeded Lavoslav Ružička at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule. He was known for his work in synthesising many organic compounds, and was the first person to synthesise adamantane, the most stable isomer. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975.