In November 1975 South African physicist and inventor Robert Ledley was granted patent #3,922,552 for a Diagnostic X-ray System also known as a CAT-Scan. Robert Ledley invented a mathematical technique in which the X-ray source and electronic detectors are rotated around the body. The resulting data is then analysed by a computer to produce a 3D map of the tissues. This secured them the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The Computed Axial Tomography Scan (CAT-scan) uses X-rays to create 3D images of the body. A normal x-ray is only a 2D picture. By using a CAT-scan a doctor could not only tell if a tumor is present, but also how deep it is in the tissue. South Africa is backed up by a number of organisations that provide support for inventors and innovators.
South African Inventors
1940s – The Wadley loop circuit was designed by Dr Trevor Wadley and was first used for a stable Wavemeter.
1950 – Sasol, the world’s first oil-from-gas company and the country’s largest fuel producer, was founded.
1950 – Q20 lubricant is invented by Mr Robertson in Pinetown Q20 is an all purpose lubricating spray that is owned by the Triton-Leo Group (Pty) Ltd The name derives from “it has 20 answers to 20 questions”
1957 – Flame ionization detector by Harley and Pretorius at the University of Pretoria in Pretoria, South Africa.
1959 – Tellurometer was the first successful microwave electronic distance measurement equipment and was also invented by Dr Trevor Wadley.
1960s – Helikon vortex separation processis an aerodynamic uranium enrichment process designed around a device called a vortex tubeThe Uranium Enrichment Corporation of South Africa, Ltd (UCOR) developed the process, operating a facility at Pelindaba near Pretoria.
1963 – The CT scan, or CAT scan, was invented by Allan MacLeod Cormack He shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Godfrey Hounsfield for his work on X-ray CT.
1963 – The dolos is invented It is a concrete block weighing up to 20 tons in a complex geometric shape, used to protect harbor walls from the erosive force of ocean waves
1965 – Freddie “Saddam” Maake claimed to have invented the vuvuzela by fabricating an aluminium version in 1965 from a bicycle horn.
1965 – Dr Selig Percy Amoils unveiled the Amoils Cryo Pencil, the world’s first surgical tool to use extreme cold to destroy unwanted tissue, at Baragwanath Hospital Amoils refined the cryoextraction technique for cataract surgery It has been used to treat Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela’s eyes His invention has been widely used for cryosurgery in gynecology and ophthalmology.
1967 – Dr Christiaan Barnard completed the world’s first successful heart transplantation on 3 December 1967 in Cape Town.
1969 – Pratley’s Putty was carried aboard the Apollo 11 Eagle landing craft George Pratley invented Pratley’s Putty to hold electrical box components.
1970 – The diamond vitrectomy cutter was invented by Selig Percy Amoils.
1975 – The Scheffel bogie was invented by Dr Herbert Scheffel This novel bogie design was used to facilitate the development of the South African narrow-gauge railway system.
1971 – Percy Tucker of Benoni, Gauteng founded Computicket, the world’s first computerized ticketing system It was deployed nationally in 1971.
1974 – Kreepy Krauly was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier, formerly from the Belgian Congo.
1978 – South African Class 6E1, Series 4 unit no E1525 set the world narrow-gauge rail speed record of 245 kilometres per hour.
1980 – The Casspir, a mine-resistant military personnel vehicle, is produced.
1981 – Mark Gillman and Fred Lichtigfeld uncovered a new biological principal between 1981-83 ie that gases can act as neurotransmitters This discovery was confirmed as a biological principle at Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA) almost a decade later cDiscoveries of a new neurotransmitter class have previously been rewarded with a Nobel Prize eg Dale and Loewi (1936) and Furchgott, Ignarro and Murad (1998).
1984 – Development began on the Denel Rooivalk, the first military attack helicopter capable of making a 360 degree loop, a feat previously seen as impossible.
1989 – The flightscope was invented by Henri Johnson It is a radar system used by professional golfers for analysing recorded trajectory, their launch angle, speed and direction.
1991 – The Action Potential Stimulation (APS) Therapy device was invented by Gervan Lubbe It consists of adhesive electrodes and is used to treat sports injuries and chronic pain conditions.
1992 – Speed Gun, a device that measures the speed of cricket balls, was invented by Henri Johnson from Somerset West and used in the 1999 Cricket World Cup Johnson also invented the Speedball (invention) that measures the speed and angle of objects; it is used in various sporting tournaments.
1995 – The Shark Shield, a portable electronic device that emits an electromagnetic field, was invented It is used in scuba diving, spearfishing, ocean kayak fishing, and surfing to repel sharks.
1995 Thawte Consulting was founded by Mark Shuttleworth It is a certificate authority (CA) for X509 certificates.
1996 – Vodacom became the first network to introduce prepay mobile phones under the ‘Vodago’ package, using an ‘Intelligent Network’ platform This made it possible to debit customers’ accounts in real time, and led to a dramatic increase in use.
1997 – CyberTracker was developed by the non-profit CyberTracker Conservation It allows illiterate animal trackers to record environmental data.
1997 – The hippo water roller was invented It is a device for carrying water more easily and efficiently than traditional methods, particularly in the developing world It consists of a barrel-shaped container which holds the water and can roll along the ground, and a handle attached to the axis of the barrel.
1998 – Charl Fourie designed the Blaster (flamethrower) to provide defense against carjackings
1999 – The Smartlock safety syringe, a three part single use syringe, was invented It is credited with dramatically reducing HIV infection rates in South Africa.
Cabral, Alvin R (November 1, 2015) “Why you should be open to change” Khaleej Times Retrieved 10 April 2019.
2001 – Ken Hall designed the Cobb grill, a charcoal briquette stove as a safer alternative to the paraffin stoves that cause many home fires in rural areas of South Africa The grill was featured in the Time Magazine’s best inventions of the year in 2001
2001 – Engineer Graeme Wells created the oil-can guitar.
2004 – Ubuntu (operating system) was first released by entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth
2005 – Prof Mulalo Doyoyo invented the “cementless concrete” Cenocell
2008 – The freeplay fetal heart rate monitor was invented It is a hand-crank powered diagnostic device.
2013 – Amoriguard, a paint whose fillers are based on recycled industrial waste is invented by Prof Mulalo Doyoyo.
2013 – Dr Sandile Ngcobo invented the world first Digital Laser (Ngcobo, S, Litvin, I, Burger, L et al A digital laser for on-demand laser modes Nat Commun 4, 2289 (2013)
2019 – Prof Mashudu Tshifularo becomes the first to transplant 3D-printed bones for reconstructive middle ear implants on 3 March 2019, at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.