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Top 10 things you didn’t know were South African inventions

October 5, 2013

South Africa has a wide range of innovative and entrepreneurial activity, and we can claim some of the world’s “first” as our own. Here’s the top 10 list:

1. CAT scan: Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield won a Nobel Prize for medicine in 1979 for their mathematical technique in which an X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated about the body, resulting in data providing a cross-section map of the body – a Cat scan.

2. Oil from coal: South African Coal Oil and Gas Corporation (Sasol) was formed in 1950 when the government realised South Africa had minimal oil reserves. Sasol’s oil-from-coal refinery provides 40% of the country’s fuel.

3. Heart transplant: Dr Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant on 3 December 1967 in Cape Town. Earlier that year, in October, he had performed the first successful kidney transplant on Edith Black and was further convinced a successful heart transplant could be achieved. Louis Washkansky, who was suffering from heart failure decided to take a chance on Barnard’s theory and become his willing patient. The rest is history.

4. Retinal Cryoprob: Selig Percy Amoils, created a new method of catarac surgery at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto. His achievement was widely recognised and in 1975 he received a Queen’s Award for Technological Innovation.

5. Speed gun: Henri Johnson, a Somerset West inventor, developed the speed gun which was officially launched at The Oval in England during the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

6. Smartlock safety syringes: Conceptualised by a group of designers at the Vaal University of Technology, it is a three-piece single use syringe that provides protection against needle-stick contamination

7. Kreepy Krauly: The first Kreepy Krauly came out of Springs and was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier, a hydraulics engineer. He came from the Belgian Congo in 1951 and soon realised there was a market for taking the hassle out of cleaning swimming pools. Kreepy Kraulys are still being used all over the world.

8. APS therapy: While looking through an American medical journal Gervan Lubbe saw an article about pain relief that made him wonder if it would be possible to relieve pain by electronically stimulating the body’s natural nerve impulses. Lubbe formed the company Tech Pulse in 1993 and it markets, produces and distributes the Action Potential Stimulation device. Today, these little pain relieve devices are sold in 41 countries.

9. Pratley Putty: George Pratley, an engineer from Krugersdorp, invented Pratley Putty while he was looking for a glue to hold components in an electrical box. It is also the only South African invention that has been to the moon after it was used in 1969 to hold bits of the Apollo XI mission’s Eagle landing craft together.

10. Dolosse: Those oddly shaped concrete blocks can usually be spotted along coastal areas. Eric Merrifield designed the structures to break up wave action and protect harbour walls and they can weigh as much as 20 tonne each. They were first installed in East London harbour and are now used all over the world.

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One Comment
  1. Brilliant! Aahh – You make us so ‘Proudly South African’. We do not have to pay for the ‘badge’ as we paid and are being paid with a RICH and Diverse (often Heretic) Heritage ! Thank you!

    Like

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