determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish
with all the tools in a machine shop." Robert Hughes - art critic
has always been an inventive place. The Aborigines showed a mastery of physics
to create hunting equipment like the boomerang and woomera. Likewise, Convicts
showed a great capacity to think outside the square to evade capture, attempt
escape or to steal. On one occasion, a Convict decided to disguise himself as
a Kangaroo so the barking guard dogs would not seem suspicious. The plan was working
brilliantly until a trooper decided to use the Kangaroo for target practice.
legacy of these foundations is a culture of pragmatic decision making that although
sometimes leads to hair-brain ideas, usually show great resourcefulness and adaptability.
- Colonial Postmaster-General of New South Wales,
James Raymond introduced the world's first pre-paid postal system.
1843 Grain stripper - John Ridley and
John Bull of South Australia developed the world's first grain stripper
that cut the crop then removed and placed the grain into bins.
1856 Refrigerator - Using
the principal of vapour compression, James Harrison produced the world's
first practical refrigerator. He was commissioned by a brewery to build a machine
that cooled beer.
Football - In 1858 Tom Will and Henry Harrison wrote the first
ten rules of Football, thus becoming the first people in the world to codify a
kicking-ball game. These rules predate those of Rugby, Soccer and Gridiron. Football
may have been inspired by the Aboriginal jumping/kicking game of Marn Grook.
1874 The underwater
torpedo - Invented by Louis Brennan, the torpedo had two propellers,
rotated by wires which were attached to winding engines on the shore station.
By varying the speed at which the two wires were extracted, the torpedo could
be steered to the left or right by an operator on the shore.
1876 Stump jump plough- Robert and Clarence
Bowyer Smith developed a plough which could jump over stumps and stones, enabling
newly-cleared land to be cultivated.
- The forerunner of the television. It was
invented by Henry Sutton in Ballarat.
Refrigeration - Credited with the manufacture of the first artificial ice,
Eugene Nicolle and Thomas Sutcliffe Mort developed shipboard refrigeration
that resulted in the export of meat from Australia to Great Britain.
Electric Drill - Arthur James Arnot, patented the world's first electric
drill on 20 August 1889 while he was an employee of the Union Electric Company
in Melbourne. He designed it primarily to drill rock and to dig coal.
First powered flight - Perhaps inspired by the boomerang, Lawrence Hargrave
discovered that curved surfaces lift more than flat ones. He subsequently built
the world's first box-kite, hitched four together, added an engine and flew five
freely with other aviation pioneers, including the Wright Brothers. But
unlike the Americans who monopolised their ideas, Hargrave never patented his.
Because it promised public access, Hargrave left all his research to the Munich
gained local support to further develop his ideas and not been so generous in
sharing his ideas with other aviation pioneers, he probably would have been the
first person in the world to achieve sustained and controlled powered flight.
Differential gears - David Shearer of South Australia built a steam
car with a differential inside left rear wheel hub.
1900s - The 'Australian Crawl' - For most of human history, humans didn't know how to swim effectively. In the 1900s, Australians invented the Australian Crawl that has since become known as 'overarm' or 'freestyle' swimming stroke.
Notepad -For 500 years, paper had been supplied in loose sheets. J A Birchall
decided that it would be a good idea to cut the sheets into half, back them with
cardboard and glue them together at the top.
Froth flotation process- The process of separating minerals from rock by flotation
was developed by Charles Potter and Guillaume Delprat of New South
Feature film - The world's first feature length film, The Story of the
Kelly Gang, was a little over an hour long.
Surf life-saving reel - The first surf life-saving reel in the world was demonstrated
at Bondi Beach on 23 December 1906 by its designer Lester Ormsby.
1907 First international ski tournament - Australia doesn't have much snow and it is isolated from most countries that do. Even so, in 1907 Australians somehow organised the first fully documented International Alpine Ski Carnival. The downhill event was won by Charles Menger (Denver, USA), second was R. Paterson (Australia) third was Earl Prince (England).
1910 Humespun process -The Humespun
process was developed by Walter Hume of Humes Ltd for making concrete pipes
of high strength and low permeability. The process revolutionised pipe manufacture
in 1910 and has since been used around the world.
The tank - A South Australian named Lance de Mole
proposal, to the British War Office, for a 'chain-rail vehicle which could be
easily steered and carry heavy loads over rough ground and trenches'. The British
war office liked the idea but then developed the tank themselves without paying
1913 Automatic totalisator
-The world's first automatic totalisator for calculating horse-racing bets was
made by Sir George Julius.
Aspro - A pain reliever based on aspirin was developed in Melbourne by George
Nicholas. By 1940 it had become the world's most widely used headache and
- One of the world's richest sources of vitamin B, vegemite was invented by
Cyril P. Callister. It is made by the autolysis of expired brewer's
yeast: a process where the yeast's own enzymes break it down.
Car radio - The first car radio was fitted to an Australian car built by Kellys
Motors in New South Wales.
Speedo -In 1927 Speedo launched the revolutionary 'racer-back' style, which
reduced fabric drag. In 1955, Speedo introduced the use of nylon for their racing
swimwear. At the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics, more than 70 per cent of all swimming
medals were won by competitors wearing Speedo.
Flying Doctor Service - Reverend John Flynn founded the world's first
Aerial Medical Service in 1928
1930s - Nuclear Fusion - In the early 20th century, Mark Oliphant worked on the artificial disintegration of the atomic nucleus and positive ions, and designed complex particle accelerators. He discovered helium 3 and tritium, and also discovered that heavy hydrogen nuclei could be made to react with each other. This fusion reaction formed the basis of a hydrogen bomb.
Ute- The utility vehicle, with a front like a car and a rear like a truck
was designed by Lewis Brandt at the Ford Motor Company in Geelong, Victoria.
1940 Zinc Cream
- This white sun block
made from zinc oxide was developed by the Fauldings pharmaceutical company.
1942 Transverse folding stroller
- Designed by Harold Cornish, the sturdy, lightweight design of his Stoway
Strollers made life easier for many parents using public transport as it could
be folded and placed under a tram seat.
- Produced by Howard
with help from a Pome named Ernst Chain.
The Hills Hoist - A rotary clothes line with a winding mechanism allowing
the frame to be lowered and raised with ease. Invented by Lance Hill.
1952 Victor mower - by Mervyn Victor Richardson, the two-stroke
petrol lawn mower with rotary blades revolutionised mowing world wide.
1950s Lagerphone- The lagerphone is a musical instrument made by nailing
beer caps onto a stick. It is not known who invented it, but in the 50s it was
popularised by the Heathcote Bushwackers as an alternative to the American
1950s Distance Measuring Equipment - Every airliner in the world uses a piece of
navigation equipment called DME, or Distance Measuring Equipment.
Atomic absorption spectrophotometer -Atomic absorption spectrophotometer is
a complex analytical instrument incorporating micro-computer electronics and precision
optics and mechanics, used in chemical analysis to determine low concentrations
of metals in a wide variety of substances. It was first developed by Sir Alan
Walsh of the CSIRO.
Solar hot water - Developed by R N Morse at the CSIRO
Flame ionisation detector -The flame ionisation detector is one of the most
accurate instruments ever developed for the detection of emissions. It was invented
by Ian McWilliam. The instrument, which can measure one part in 10 million,
has been used in chemical analysis in the petrochemical industry, medical and
biochemical research, and in the monitoring of the environment.
Trousers with a permeant crease - The process for producing permanently creased
fabric was invented by Dr Arthur Farnworth of the CSIRO.
Black box flight recorder - The 'black box' voice and instrument data recorder
was invented by Dr David Warren in Melbourne.
Plastic spectacle lenses - The world's first plastic spectacle lenses, 60
per cent lighter than glass lenses, were designed by Scientific Optical Laboratories.
Ultrasound - David Robinson and George Kossoff's work at the
Australian Department of Health, resulted in the first commercially practical
water path ultrasonic scanner in 1961.
Inflatable escape slide - The inflatable aircraft escape slide which doubles
as a raft was invented by Jack Grant of Qantas.
Wine cask -Invented by Thomas Angrove, the wine cask is a cardboard
box housing a plastic container which collapses as the wine is drawn off, thus
preventing contact with air.
Variable rack and pinion steering - The variable ratio rack and pinion steering
in motor vehicles was invented by Australian engineer, Arthur Bishop.
Staysharp knife- The self-sharpening knife was developed by Wiltshire.
1972 Orbital internal combustion
engine - The orbital combustion process engine was invented by engineer Ralph
Sarich. The engine uses a single triangular-shaped piston to create five combustion chambers as it orbits inside a single cylinder. It is 40 per cent lighter, 60 per cent smaller and 35 per cent more efficient than standard car engines. Today, it is used in two-stroke engines, boat engines, motorbikes, lawn mowers and some small cars
Instream analysis - To speed-up analysis of metals during the recovery process,
which used to take up to 24 hours, Amdel Limited developed an on-the-spot
analysis equipment called the In-Stream Analysis System, for the processing of
copper, zinc, lead and platinum - and the washing of coal. This computerised system
allowed continuous analysis of key metals and meant greater productivity for the
mineral industry worldwide.
Plastic injection moulding software -Engineers at Moldflow Pty Ltd
revolutionised the plastic injection process with a new computer aided engineering
software, that simulated the injection moulding process and offered a design strategy
to evaluate, refine and optimise successive simulations. The technique has been
used widely in the automotive, whitegoods, computer, packaging, communications,
aeronautical and photographic industries.
Race-cam - Race Cam was developed by Geoff
Healey, an engineer with Australian Television Network Seven in Sydney. The
tiny lightweight camera is used in sports broadcasts and provides viewers with
spectacular views of events such as motor racing, which are impossible with conventional
Bionic ear - The cochlear implant was invented by Professor Graeme Clark
of the University of Melbourne.
The dual flush toilet - As dunnies have a
celebrated status in Australia, it is apt that Australia has taken a central role
in their evolution. In 1982, the dual flush toilet was responsible for savings
in excess of 32000 litres of water per household a year. Pretty important in the
world's dries inhabited continent.
Wave-piercing catamarans - The high speed catamarans were developed by Phillip
Hercus and Robert Clifford of Incat in Tasmania.
Winged Keel - Ben Lexen designed a winged keel that helped Australia
II end the American's 132 ownership of the America's
cup. The keel gave the yacht better steering and manoeuvrability in heavy winds.
1984 Frozen embryo
baby- The world's first frozen embryo baby was born in Melbourne on 28th March
1984 Baby Safety
Capsule - Babies in a car crash used to bounce around like a soccer ball.
In 1984, for the first time babies had a harness for their safe transportation
shears - The discovery of gene shears was made by CSIRO scientists, Wayne
Gerlach and Jim Haseloff.
Multi-focal contact lens- The world's first multi-focal contact lens was invented
by optical research scientist, Stephen Newman in Queensland.
Supersonic combustion - The University of Queensland demonstrated the world's
first supersonic combustion in an atmospheric flight test at Woomera on July 30,
2002. The craft reached speeds of more than Mach 8, or 8 times the speed of sound.
Scramjet - The University of Queensland reported for the first time the development
of a scramjet that achieved more thrust than drag.
Underwater pc - The world's first underwater computer with a five-button hand-held
keypad was developed by Bruce Macdonald at the Australian Institute of
EXELGRAM - The world's most sophisticated optical anti-counterfeiting technology
was developed by the CSIRO.
- Jindalee Radar System - The United States of America spent $11 billion developing
an aeroplane that could not be detected by radar. Scientists at the CSIRO then
concluded that if the plane could not be detected, perhaps the turbulance it makes
passing through air could be. $1.5 million later, the Jindalee Radar system had
transformed the stealth bomber into nothing more than an unusual looking aircraft.
1996 - Hi-Speed Wi-Fi - During the 1990s, around 22 of the world’s computer firms were researching wi-fi as a way of connecting mobile phones and laptops to a wireless network. Wi-fi technology existed, but it was too slow to connect to the Internet. The CSIRO decided it could make use of the Fast Fourier Transform Chip, invented by Australian Dr John O’ Sullivan in the 1980s. Within six months they had invented Wi-fi. By 2000, the technology was being incorporated into computers and mobile phones and today makes phones like the T-Mobile Blackberry Bold possible.
2002 - Hyshot Scramjet Engine - a very high speed air-breathing jet engine currently in the testing stage developed by a team from the University of Queensland led by Professor Allan Paull. In June 2007, it was successfully used to boost a test vehicle to hypersonic speeds.
Activity 1 – Which is best
Activity purpose – Assessing how inventions change our world
Look at the various inventions. Which one do you think has had the most impact on the world? Which one has most shaped your life?
Activity 2 - Assess some inventions
Imagine you are a banker. Assess the value of the following inventions below. Would they be practical, too expensive, have a market?
- Some kind of bright organic food dye and stamp so that food producers can stamp their brand onto peaches or apples instead of using those annoying labels (can be a bugger getting those labels off after cutting your nails)
- A new brand of English that has simplified grammar and position that as the world standard (E.g, there be apples and there be water instead of there are apples and there is water. It would save a lot of educational resources and let people have fun speaking like a pirate)
- A device that would make it easier to store various passwords so that if lost, no one else could use them (far too many passwords to remember in the modern age)
- A children’s toy that doubles as a hot water bottle (lets face it, hot water bottles look a bit bland and mothers love cute things)
- A political model in which different countries share a president that acts as an adjudicator (national pride has its benefits, except when politicians use it to concentrate power)
- A model for recycling sewage so that it can be used for farming (shame that so much shit is being pumped out to the Pacific Ocean, while bird shit from Pacific islands is mined and dropped on farmland)
- A school that teaches stuff that will be useful in life, not just prepares students for university (no teachers, not all students want to follow in your footsteps)
- A male chastity belt for rapists as an alternative to chemical castration (purely pragmatic here. Best to leave the morality of actually using a chasity belt to prevent crime for criminologists)
- A movie script for the story of Douglas Mawson (could reality TV shows like Survivor really come close to his story?)
- A round courthouse for restorative justice sessions (in some circumstances, restorative justice is
preferable to punitive justice, and an elevated judge at the head of the room is a bit inconsistent with restorative themes)
- An electronic device that would allow drivers to call other sexy drivers that they see, and who also have the device (may appeal to the budding Casanovas and would be Catherine the Greats)
- An esky that can connect to a canister of liquid nitrogen to produce an instant freezer when camping and perhaps cool down beer (after a few days camping, the ice has melted and the beers are getting warm!)
- A protective cover so that iPads can be read in the bath or shower or an iPad that can still be used with a protective cover over it.
- A snake trap (that doesn’t kill the snake) to give peace of mind to homeowners worried about snakes (would do wonders for increasing tourism from Britain.)
- An electric circuit through cricket stumps and the crease that instantly determines if the bat was grounded behind the crease before the bails were broken (maybe less time for commentators to pontificate and one less opportunity to show an ad, but with 20/20, we want continuous action!)
- A bushfire resistant house (The Japanese design for earthquakes, why can't we design for a known threat as well?)
- A plant flammability scale so that homeowners know the extent that plants around their house will contribute to, or block, the path of a bushfire.
- A fly farm. The United Nations has promoted insect consumption as a solution to famine and malnutrition. Although eating flies may not be marketable, the protein from flies could be used to make food for aquaculture or feed stock.