Great SA Inventions
What do a Kreepy Krauly, a box of Pratley Putty and a CAT scan have in common? Here's a clue: they share a heritage with Grapetiser, oil can guitars, rooibos tea, vuvuzelas and 'Klippies and coke'. Yip, they're all proudly South African. With South Africa's first all-electric car, the Joule, sparking an interest in South African ingenuity, we take a look at some of the inventions which put South Africans right up there with Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison... well, almost.
South African physicist Allan Cormack won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology together with Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories for the invention of the Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan. CAT scans are used to generate three- dimensional images of tissue using a series of two-dimensional xrays taken around a single axis of rotation. The technology enables doctors to detect tumours or damaged tissue.
Invented by Gervan Lubbe in 1991, Action Potential Stimulation (APS) devices simulate nerve impulses which cause the brain to release hormones to ease pain. The device can be used to ease a variety of painful conditions, including arthritis, osteoporosis, backache, headaches and sports injuries. The devices are sold in 41 countries around the world and currently, in South Africa alone, 40 000 people use the machines to relieve pain.
Smartlock Safety Syringe
Developed by a group of designers at Advanced Medical Technologies in 1999, the Smartlock Safety Syringe could decrease the spread of disease through accidental needle-stick injuries. The cleverly designed syringe ensures that once an injection is delivered, the needle is withdrawn into the sheath and locked.
The large, strangely-shaped concrete blocks that break up wave action and protect harbour walls had their humble beginnings in East London. Although their invention is generally attributed to harbour engineer Eric Merrifield, this attribution has been contested by his draughtsman Aubrey Kruger, who claims that it was in fact he who invented the interlocking blocks in 1966. Never patented, the dolosse (named after a similarly-shaped sheep's knuckle bone) now fortify harbours around the world.
In 1955, Dr Trevor Wadley revolutionised the world of cartography (map making) when he invented the tellurometer. Prior to this, land surveying had depended on tedious manual methods of measuring distance, but Wadley's tellurometer developed using World War II radar technologies could accurately measure distances of up to 50 kilometres. Wadley's radio tellurometer was eventually replaced by an infrared tellurometer, invented by another South African ? Dick Holscher.
Invented by Louis Liebenberg and Lindsay Steventon in 1996, the cybertracker is a hand-held computer (connected to a satellite navigational system) used for tracking animals. The computer is unique because its graphic interface makes it possible for illiterate individuals (such as the San people) to enter detailed information to help scientists with their research.
Rajan Harinarain's Foldaway House is the perfect temporary solution to the housing crisis caused by disasters such as fires or flooding. Invented in 2006, the waterproof house ? complete with two windows, a wooden door, and electrical fittings ? can be erected in five minutes. Made out if galvanised metal, the 14-square-metre dwelling weighs approximately 800 kilos and at a height of just 24cm when folded, can be transported easily.
The only South African invention to have travelled to the moon, Pratley Putty was used to hold bits of the Apollo 11 mission's Eagle landing craft together. Hundreds of tons of this strong adhesive have been exported all over the world since it was invented by Krugersdorp engineer George Pratley in the 1960s.
Not technically a South African, the hydraulics engineer Ferdinand Chauvier (hailing from the Belgian Congo) had been living in South Africa for 23 years when he invented the first Kreepy Krauly in 1974. An additional 23 years after his death, Kreepy Kraulies are still keeping South African pools sparkling.
Thu, 23 Oct 2008 12:00
See story at http://technology.iafrica.com/features/206622.html