Marco Polo, that indefatigable and well-traveled Venetian, is often credited with bringing a number of things from China to Europe. But Laurence Bergreen’s book, Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, dispels some of the misconceptions, and his thorough research uncovered a few facts that may surprise you. Thanks, Marco, for carrying these Chinese ideas to the Europeans!
“Paper money, virtually unknown in the West until Marco’s return, revolutionized finance and commerce throughout the West.
Coal, another item that had caught Marco’s attention in China, provided a new and relatively efficient source of heat to an energy-starved Europe.
Eyeglasses (in the form of ground lenses), which some accounts say he brought back with him, became accepted as a remedy for failing eyesight. In addition, lenses gave rise to the telescope–which in turn revolutionized naval battles, since it allowed combatants to view ships at a great distance–and the microscope. Two hundred years later, Galileo used the telescope–based on the same technology–to revolutionize science and cosmology by supporting and disseminating the Copernican theory that Earth and other planets revolved around the Sun.
Gunpowder, which the Chinese had employed for at least three centuries, revolutionized European warfare as armies exchanged their lances, swords, and crossbows for cannon, portable arquebuses, and pistols.” (321) from Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu by Laurence Bergreen
(Image of Corte del Milione from https://www.mirutadelaseda.com/399/in-marco-polos-city/)