Australia has come out with a lot of inventions over the past years. Read on to see how many you know!
It was invented and made commercially available in 1923 by Dr Cyril P. Callister, as an Aussie alternative to Marmite. Whether you love or hate it, you can’t deny that it has made its presence felt in the Australian household! Read more about the Vegemite story.
Indoor wireless hotspots were something that could only be dreamed of back in the 1980s. There was just too much radio wave echo disrupting the connection. That was until CSIRO researchers invented a chip in 1994 that solved the problem; the rest was history! Read more about how CSIRO bought WIFI to the world.
In 1902, J.A. Birchall decided that selling paper in stacks to write on was inefficient. Instead, he glued a stack of halved sheets and used cardboard for support. Birchall called it the ‘Silver City Writing Tablet’ – but it was the very first notebook. Read about the history of Birchall.
Brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen developed mapping software in the 2000s and later, with the help of Neil Gordon and Stephen Ma, founded a startup company called Where 2 Technologies. In 2004, they sold the company to Google, turning it into Google Maps. The inventors only had $16 left to their name when they invented what is now Google Maps.
Cochlear implant (Bionic ear)
This medical device replaces what a damaged inner ear is supposed to do by electronically stimulating the auditory nerve. Professor Graeme Clark was inspired to invent it in the 1970s after watching his father struggle with a hearing impairment. Today, more than 150,000 people’s hearing has been improved or restored by this device. Read more about the Cochlear Implant.
David Robinson and George Kossof built the first commercially viable ultrasound scanner in 1961 while working at Ultrasonic Research Group of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories. This invention forever changed healthcare for diagnosis and prenatal care. Before this invention, there was no way for pregnant women to know the health of their foetuses without using harmful x-rays. Read all about these pioneers and other Australian medical pioneers.
The first electric drill was invented by Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain in 1889 after the arrival of the electric motor. It was huge and heavy, designed to cut through coal and rock for mining. The same technology was later refined to be our modern hand drill. Find out more about the history of the electric drill.
Black box flight recorder
Dr David Warren found the need for a recording device when he and a team of researchers conducted aircraft crash investigations in the 1950s and came up with the black box (it is actually orange). It records not only flight data but voices and noises in the aircraft which has proved invaluable in modern aviation. Today it is mandatorily installed on all commercial flights and has helped make them the safest mode of travel worldwide.
The electronic pacemaker was invented by doctor Mark Lidwill and physicist Edgar Booth in the 1920s. Lidwill used the first one to revive a stillborn baby. Today, almost three million people use the pacemaker (albeit a more advanced version), but the first one was invented here in Australia. Read more about this feat of medical engineering.
Inflatable escape slide and raft
Jack Grant invented the inflatable escape slide and raft for aeroplanes in 1965. It soon became mandatory safety equipment on all major airlines and has saved countless lives over the years when emergency water landings have had to be made. Read more about this important invention.
The mechanical icemaker
Before 1854, ice could only be made by chipping it off a frozen lake and storing it in a chilled location. It was considered the ultimate luxury. Then along came James Harrison, who designed and built the first commercially available mechanical icemaking machine in Geelong, Victoria, and completely changed the game for icemaking. Read more about the ice maker.
Stainless steel braces
Until 1950, gold and platinum were the primary metals used for braces. The technique involved the whole tooth being wrapped in wire in addition to painful skull-encompassing headgear. In 1956, Percy Raymond Begg published his stainless steel braces, makingorthodontics more comfortable and affordable.
Long-wear contact lenses
In 1991, CSIRO and the University of New South Wales, together, set out to develop long-wear contact lenses that would be more comfortable than the existing ones at the time. The lenses were successfully invented in 1999 out of silicone hydrogel. The contact lenses we use today are still made of the same material! Read more about the invention of contact lenses.
Relenza, the first anti-influenza drug was developed by Australian biotech company Biota, in 1990. Acquiring the capacity to combat the flu was a landmark in medical history. Read more about this exciting Australian invention.
Hills hoist clothesline
This rotary clothesline has become so synonymous with an Aussie backyard that it’s hard to imagine one without it. It was first invented in 1945 by Lance Hill and led to the establishment of Hills Industries in 1958.
The first polymer (plastic) notes were developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia and CSIRO in the 1980s. Plastic currency, unlike traditional paper or cloth fibre currency, has in-built security devices which help prevent the production of counterfeit notes. They also last about ten years longer. Read more about how these banknotes were invented and then introduced into currency.
Dual flush toilet
The first practically implemented dual flush toilet was invented by the sanitaryware company Caroma in 1980. This invention was made possible due to a $130,000 grant and meant savings of 32,000 litres of water a year per household! Without this invention, we would still be wasting copious amounts of water every time we visited the bathroom! Read more about the Caroma company’s design.
The racecam technology was developed by the Seven Network who used it to shoot a car race in 1979 held at Mount Panorama, from the driver’s perspective. It has since been adapted to various other sports like skiing. Find out more about this racing technology.
Peter Talbot, an electrical engineer, invented the first power board (a series of sockets on a board that plugs into a single socket) in 1972 when he was frustrated with the lack of sockets in his workplace for testing appliances. Unfortunately, because Talbot forgot to patent it, the market share was eventually lost to other manufacturers. Read more about this and other inventions where the inventors didn’t patent their creations!
Cervical Cancer Vaccine
Each year close to 530,000 women worldwide receive the diagnosis of cervical cancer. Together with his late colleague Jian Zhou, Dr Ian Frazer invented Gardasil. The current Gardasil vaccine protects against nine strains of Human Papilloma Virus giving 90% protection against cervical cancer. Find out more about the vaccine.
17 year old Australian Angelina Arora has invented a plastic made from prawn shells and silkworm cocoons which breaks down entirely in around 33 days. She hasn’t stopped there though and is looking at a range of new inventions. You can listen to her here:
Other Australian Inventions, Innovations and Discoveries
- Carbon absorbing algae
- Pink Lady & Granny Smith Apples
- Flying Doctor Service
- Victa lawnmower
- Tea-tree oil disinfectant
What if you think you have a unique Australian invention?
If you invent something that you think is original, you will want to look into Patents and search to see if your invention is original. A patent protects what you have invented. You will need to meet four criteria which are whether your design is:
- patentable subject matter
- newness (or novelty)
- usefulness (or utility).
Australian inventions have significantly impacted the world in all sorts of ways. Our investment into medical and scientific research continues and according to Austrade, “Australia is now ranked second in Asia for fintech development, and sixth globally. We score highly in science too. According to Nature, Australia is one of the top 10 countries in the world for contributing to life sciences research.” You can read more about our global rankings here on Austrade’s website.
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