There is a large chance that you have never heard of Peter Florjančič and an even larger chance that you have unknowingly used some of his inventions. These include the perfume atomizer and the plastic zipper. Florjančič invented the plastic slide frame – a ubiquitous gadget in times before digital photography replaced film. In the fifties, Florjančič even outlined early plans for the airbag, now an indispensable part of every car. He was ahead too early, however: no materials or technologies at the time were advanced enough to turn his idea into an industrial product.
His career as an inventor started in a refugee camp in Swiss Zürich where he designed a weaving machine designed for use by disabled people. – an important invention for the war and post-war period. After the war, Florjančič moved to Monte Carlo and later to Austria and Germany. In that period many of his inventions were related to plastics. His Colibri machine, made in 1950, was the world’s smallest machine for making plastic products. In the following years, he continued to create plastic-making machines, as well as the world’s first plastic skates, plastic chains, and snow shovel. He finally returned to his native Bled in Slovenia in 1998. Even though he was over 90 he continued to innovate.
Apart from being an inventor, Florjančič was also a ski champion, representing Yugoslavia at the 1936 Winter Olympics. He composed music, wrote books, and lectured – as well as playing in a Hollywood movie with Marlene Dietrich (The Monte Carlo Story, 1957). His life story itself is fit for a plot for a Hollywood movie.
Peter Florjančič holds one of his many inventions, a perfume spray bottle.
Photo: Igor Modic