South Africa is known for many things such as its wildlife, diverse and scenic landscapes, its eleven official languages, and its diverse cuisines and cultures. However, it’s also home to the little-known inventors of some of the most innovative inventions that are utilised and recognised internationally. One of the most famous examples is, of course, the world’s first ever heart transplant which was performed by Dr. Christian Barnard in Cape Town in 1967, a revolutionary surgical procedure that transformed the cardio-thoracic landscape. He later went on to perform another 10 heart transplants, drastically improving the quality of life of his patients.
Another medical marvel that is on the list of South African inventions is the Computed Axial Tomography Scan more commonly known as the CAT scan. It was developed by Cape Town-based physicist Allan Cormack and his assistant Godfrey Hounsfield. Cormack established the mathematical technique behind the CAT scan that allows for the data gained through the rotating x-ray and electronic detectors to be analysed in order to form a definitive image of the chosen tissue matter. This invention was subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
A well-known South African invention in an entirely different league is the family-favourite pool cleaner and water vacuum equivalent: the Kreepy Krauly. The Kreepy Krauly was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier from Springs, Johannesburg in 1974 as a solution to the problem presented by the constant hassle of having to keep the swimming pool at home clean. Pratley’s Putty, invented by George Pratley was invented by accident whilst trying to come up with glue that could “hold down all the components in an electrical box”. However, Pratley’s Glue was a successful adhesive in its own right, being utilised to hold parts of the Apollo XI’s craft together during its maiden mission to the moon.
An obscure South African invention, that most people won’t know, is the Dolosse. What is a Dolosse you may ask? Well, it is a very large and obscurely shaped concrete block that can weigh up to twenty tonnes. And what is its purpose, other than being a large and imposing structure? It’s used in conjunction with many others in order to protect harbours and coastal regions from excessive wave action. Other little known South African inventions include the speed gun which is used to accurately measure the speed and angles of speeding objects such as cricket or tennis balls, as well as Q20 which is a garage staple for most. Q20 is an invention to come out of Pinetown in KZN and is an effective water repellent, lubricant, and rust-deterrent. Smart lock Safety Syringes are a ground-breaking and necessary invention in the medical field as they provided some much-needed protection against needlestick injuries.
The list of inventions is endless, and South Africa is home to many pioneering inventors with some creative solutions to everyday problems, as well as some larger ones.