STEM history of South Africa
Make A Plan
How many times have you heard: “Just make a plan!” – is that innovation in South Africa? This seems to be the answer for anything that seems even remotely impossible. Innovation in South Africa is drilled into our everyday lives – it is something we take for granted, but that is not the point of this post.
In this post, I’d like to take a look and remind you AND ME, about the great inventions and STEM achievements that have come out of South Africa in the past.
First heart transplant by Dr Chris Barnard
Dr Chris Barnard is famous world wide for performing the first human-to-human heart transplant in 1967.
The CAT Scan
The CAT (Computed Axial Tomography) scan was invented in 1972 by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack of Tufts University, Massachusetts and by British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories, England. Cormack developed the mathematical computation needed. This innovation resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
POS (Point Of Sale) in your pocket! The PocketPOS is a truly mobile point of sale for the business that does transactions outside, like a plumber or an electrician. Read more on the PocketPOS by going to this review by The Techie Guy
Oil from Coal (Sasol)
Sasol is the first and the largest oil-from-coal refinery in the world! Sasol produces as much as 40% of South Africa’s oil.
The automatic pool cleaner was invented in 1974 by a man who got tired of cleaning the pool manually – naturally! This man’s name is Ferdinand Chauvier, from Springs. Today, you aren’t likely to find a pool without some sort of a pool vacuum in it.
George Pratley invented Pratley’s putty while trying to develop a glue that would hold electrical components in a box. Later, in 1969, Pratley Putty played a part in landing the Appolo XI on the moon. Don’t believe me? Read more on SA History
Dolosse (Harbour Water Break)
This (up to 20 Ton) piece of weirdly shaped concrete block, gets used to protect harbor walls from the constant battering of the waves. The creator, Eric Merrifield, studied Civil Engineering at WITS University.
His family moved to South Africa in 1917 from Southern Rhodesia (Known as Zimbabwe today). As East London Systems Harbor Engineer, Eric had to come up with a solution for the damaged harbor wall in 1961.
Q20 water displacement spray
Kwazulu-Natal, Pinetown – 1950: Mr Robertson was constantly having problems with the distributor cap of VW beetles. These cars were notorious for stalling in wet weather! His answer to the problem was Q20 – an oily liquid that has a higher specific gravity (SG) than water.
Selig Percy Amoils, a Johannesburg born biomedical engineering inventor (Yes that is quite a mouthful), developed a new method for cataract surgery in 1975. This happened at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto.
Electric Street Lights
Although this is not a Innovation of South Africa, I think it is worth mentioning that in 1882, Kimberley became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere and Africa, to switch on electric street lamps.
Nuclear in South Africa
As of 2011 the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station is the only commercial nuclear energy station on the African continent.
South Africa dismantled its nuclear weapons program in 1989, the first nation in the world to do so, and became a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991.
Wikipedia – Timeline for South African Innovations/discoveries:
- 1882, 1 September – Kimberley becomes the first city in the Southern Hemisphere and in Africa to have electric street lights.
- 1920 – Hendrik van der Bijl publishes The thermionic vacuum tube and its applications. The standard textbook on the subject of vacuum tubes for more than 20 years.
- 1937 – The 17-D Yellow Fever vaccine is announced by Max Theiler
- 1945 – Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was founded
- 1955 – SASOL produces its first automotive fuel from coal
- 1959 – Trevor Wadley invented the Tellurometer, the first successful microwave distance measurement device.
- 1962 – SANAE I, the first South African Antarctic base is built.
- 1963 – The Dolos was developed in East London
- 1965, 18 March – SAFARI-1, the first nuclear reactor on the African continent, goes critical
- 1967, 3 December – The first successful human-to-human heart transplant was performed by Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital
- 1974 – The first automated pool cleaner, the Kreepy Krauly, was introduced by Ferdinand Chauvier
- 1975 – Development is started on a helmet mounted sight system and the South African Air Force later become the first country to deploy these during combat.
- 1978 – SAR Class 6E1 (No. E1525) sets the narrow gauge land speed record for rail vehicles at 245 km/h (152 mph).
- 1995 – Mark Shuttleworth founded Thawte, an early Internet security company which is now the second largest certificate authority on the internet.
- 1995 – The Natal Sharks Board starts marketing of the Shark POD, a personal device to deter sharks.
- 1999, 23 February – SUNSAT, the first South African produced satellite was put in orbit by an American Delta II launch vehicle.
TEDx Johannesburg 2017 – Abundance of innovation and creativity
Gideon Potgieter joined the Resolution Circle in 2014 after working abroad for 14 years and refers to himself of a home comer. He is a electrical engineer by training and speaks in this video about some awesome stats about South Africa. He points out that there is a abundance of innovation in South Africa.
Here are two of the sources I used to find some of this information:
- SA Good News – 10 South African Inventions
- Wikipedia – Science and Technology in South Africa
- Also check out this infographic on Innovation in South Africa – originally from Top 20 South African Innovations of all time
INNOVATION IN SOUTH AFRICA IS PART OF WHO WE ARE
THE POINT IS SOUTH AFRICA IS A GREAT COUNTRY WITH AMAZING PEOPLE AND FANTASTIC INVENTIONS!
It is highly likely that I have not covered everything that was invented or developed in South Africa. The Lodox machine, Rooivalk attack helicopter are two that come to mind. Please comment below if you know of some I have not mentioned.
Also read A Pioneering Past and Present; Facing an Uncertain Future on SAfro.info
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