Petrache Poenaru (born in 1799) was a Romanian inventor and mathematician whose life was full of adventure and extraordinary experiences.
Life & Career
Distinguished graduate of Obedeanu school in Craiova, Petrache was attracted by the life of the outlaws from the town slums, whom he joined before the age of 22. To the astonishment and amusement of his new comrades, the young man did not know how to use weapons and carried with him an inkwell.
As soon as he had been introduced to Tudor Vladimirescu, he became one of his pandours, soon to become his man of confidence and head of chancery.
During this time of political activism, according to some witnesses of the time, Petrache Poenaru would have invented even the tricolor national flag. The chronicles of the time wrote that Vladimirescu’s revolutionaries had a flag that was red, yellow and blue and that it had been designed by Poenaru.
At the initiative of Petrache, ‘Foaia de propaganda’ (The Propaganda Sheet) was published. It presented the ideals of the Romanian revolutionary army and it was the first Romanian propaganda newspaper.
When Tudor Vladimirescu was assassinated, Poenaru was on a diplomatic mission abroad thus managed to escape and later took refuge in Sibiu.
After some time, he managed to obtain a scholarship and leave for Wien and Paris. He studied Topography and Geodesy and became a graduate of the Polytechnic School of Paris. During this time, he invented the first modern fountain pen with an ink tank. He patented his invention in 1827 under the name “The self- fueling endless portable quill, with ink”.
Three years later, he had the opportunity to participate to the inauguration of the first railway in the world, the railroad linking Liverpool to Manchester. This is what Poenaru wrote on 27th October 1831:
“I made this journey with the new means of transportation, which is one of the industrial wonders of the century…twenty carriages bound to one another, loaded with 240 people are pulled by a single steam machine...”
In 1831 he returned in the country and became a professor at ‘Saint Sava College’ in Bucharest. He dedicated himself to the Romanian education system by publishing Algebra and Geometry courses and established the rural public schools.
The name of Petrache Poenaru is also linked with introducing the decimal metric system in Romania (which was enacted only in 1864). Also at his insistence, an Exact Sciences College was founded , with three departments: Topography, Bridges and Roads Engineering and also, Architecture.
In 1870 he became a member of the Romanian Academy. He died five years later, in 1875.