UGent Sports Centre / Ghent University

Ghent, Belgium | C.1817

Photo Credit: Janne Monard

The game of basketball requires immense skill and clever plays in order to win. While he never played in the UGent Sports Centre, Ghent local Lieven Bauwens pulled off a ‘slam dunk’ move during the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. With the finesse of a finger roll, Bauwens single-handedly carried out an act of industrial espionage that would weave him into the history of Ghent forever.

Born in Ghent in 1796 to an industrialist family of tanners, Bauwens was sent as a young man to England to learn about the new industries and textile factories that were sprouting up all over Britain. At the time, England was the only country with the spinning mule machine, which automated the process of transforming cotton into textiles. It was a vast improvement from previous ways to make the cotton fine enough for textile weaving, as it was done by hand and extremely taxing for just a small amount. 

Seeing the importance of this invention and wanting to break Britain’s monopoly in textiles, Bauwens hatched a plan to steal a machine across the channel. Purchasing a machine, he dismantled it piece by piece and hid in 32 separate shipments of boxes of sugar and coffee, setting up shop back in Ghent. By the time British officials found out, it was already too late, and soon Ghent became a textile center of Europe thanks to  Lieven’s replicas of the spinning mule. 

While centuries have passed since this sneaky scandal, recreational basketball players at the UGent could learn a lot from Lieven Bauwens. Many a game has been won with a steal.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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