Australian ingenuity at its finest

Australian ingenuity at its finest!

From the boomerang to the precursor to the modern refrigerator, black box flight recorder and even Wi-Fi, heaps of game-changing innovations have come from a land Down Under.

Looking all the way back to the southern hemisphere nation's prehistory, scroll through to see 30 of the most awesome Australian inventions ever.


Boomerang (up to 50,000 years ago)

The first human-made heavier-than-air flying device, the boomerang, a veritable icon of Australia and enduring symbol of Aboriginal culture, is thought to have originated up to 50,000 years ago. Simple yet super-clever, the device has been used for everything from hunting and warfare to sport and music.


Didgeridoo (up to 40,000 years ago)

Like the boomerang, the didgeridoo is synonymous with Aboriginal culture. Originally crafted from eucalyptus trunks or large branches hollowed out by termites, the didgeridoo may be the world's oldest woodwind instrument, though its origins aren't completely clear. While some experts believe the instrument dates back 40,000 years, the earliest archaeological evidence is just a few thousand years old.


Mechanised grain stripper (1843)

In 1843 miller John Ridley (who may or may not have been inspired by a model created a year earlier by John Wrathall Bull) manufactured the world's first mechanised grain stripper in South Australia. Capable of harvesting an impressive 28 hectares of wheat a week, the contraption was exported globally and provided the inspiration for the modern wheat harvester.


Refrigerator (1851)

Regarded as the father of refrigeration, Scottish-born Australian engineer James Harrison built a mechanical ice-making machine in 1851 in Geelong and patented the world's first vapour-compression refrigeration system in 1856. Harrison's inventions went on to become the blueprint for the refrigerator, not to mention modern-day air conditioning.


Ballot box (1856)

Key to the functioning and legitimacy of elections in modern democracies, the ballot box is an Australian innovation. The locked box, which allowed voters to cast their ballot in secret, was invented in 1856 by the multitalented Henry Samuel Chapman, who was a judge, politician, colonial secretary, attorney-general and journalist. It was first used that same year in a Victorian election.


Granny Smith apple (1868)

One of the world's most popular apple varieties, the tart and crisp Granny Smith was propagated by its namesake Maria Ann Smith in 1868 in Eastwood, which is now a suburb of Sydney. The orchardist discovered the mutated seedling, which derived from a French crab apple tree, by chance. Sadly, it wasn't until after her death that the variety garnered worldwide fame.


Sheep-shearing machine (1877)

Irish-Australian pastoralists Frederick Wolseley and Robert Savage revolutionised the global wool industry in 1877 when they patented the first commercially successful sheep-shearing machine. Wolseley's handheld innovation, which sped up the process and allowed the wool to be clipped up to three times closer to the skin, initially ran on horse power before it was fixed up to an external engine.


Electric drill (1889)

Tradespeople and DIY-ers the world over owe a debt of gratitude to Melburnians Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain, who designed and patented the world's first electric drill in 1889. Arnot also masterminded Melbourne's original street lighting, the city's Spencer Street Power Station and tramway power stations in Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch.


Powered flying machine (1894)

The Wright brothers are of course rightly credited with the first successful aircraft flight, but the first powered flying machine was innovated by an Aussie. In 1894 Lawrence Hargrave linked four box kites, which he then fixed to an engine, and achieved the first bona fide powered flight on the outskirts of Wollongong.


Notepad (1902)

Believe it or not the commercial notepad wasn't invented until 1902. Tasmanian stationery shop owner J.A. Birchall, who was fed up selling writing paper in 'quires' or 'loose quill' sheets, created what he called the Silver City Writing Tablet by gluing together a stack of half sheets of paper supported by a cardboard sheet.


Kiwi Boot Polish (1906)

Despite its name, which may lead many people to believe the product originated in New Zealand, Kiwi Boot Polish was created by Scottish-born Australian entrepreneur William Ramsay in Melbourne in 1906. The world's most popular shoe polish was so-named because the inventor's wife hailed from New Zealand.


Tank (1912)

The inventor of the modern tank, draftsman Lancelot de Mole devised a tracked armoured vehicle after a survey trip to Western Australia in 1911 during which he had to travel extensively over rocky terrain. De Mole submitted his idea to the British War Office in 1912 but the design was rejected. Despite the brush-off, the inventor received a cash reward for the expenses incurred and was awarded a CBE in 1920 for his trouble.


Clapperboard (1920s)

The humble clapperboard, which is used to synchronise picture and sound, is an essential piece of kit for filmmakers and video producers. Though you might think Hollywood invented the gizmo, it was actually first devised sometime during the 1920s by Australian movie pioneer F. W. Thring, who was the head of Melbourne's Efftee Studios. Incidentally, the world's first feature film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was shot in Australia in 1906.


Electronic pacemaker (1926)

An Aussie invention that has gone on to save millions of lives worldwide, the electronic cardiac pacemaker was the brainchild of Doctor Mark Lidwill and physicist Edgar Booth. The duo came up with the device in 1926, and it was first used in 1928 to successfully revive an infant in cardiac arrest.


Commercial penicillin (1939)

Arguably the greatest leap forward for humankind in our round-up, penicillin, the first antibiotic, was famously discovered by Scotsman Alexander Fleming in 1928, but Australian scientist Howard Florey was instrumental in the wonder drug's commercialisation. Florey extracted penicillin from the liquid broth in which it grows in 1939 and conducted the first clinical trials of the medication two years later.


Zinc cream (1940)

The go-to sunscreen for cricketers and lifeguards the world over, zinc oxide cream, which acts as a physical UV block and is considered the gold standard of sunscreen as well as being the healthiest and most environmentally-friendly, was first formulated in 1940 by Adelaide-based pharmaceutical company Fauldings (the firm's factory is shown here in 1945).


Distance measuring equipment (1944/45)

Australia has made several important contributions to airline safety. Distance measuring equipment, which calculates the distance between aircraft and a ground system using radio waves, was invented by engineer James Gerrand under the supervision of Welsh-born Australian radar pioneer Edward George Bowen while the pair were working for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which has brought the world a multitude of amazing inventions.


Disposable hypodermic syringe (1949)

The first medical syringes were developed by the Romans but the world has Australia to thank for the first disposable hypodermic version, an invention that transformed the technology's safe use. Austrian-born Australian Charles Rothauser is the person to credit. He created the first single-use plastic syringes in 1949 at his factory in Adelaide.


Solar water heater (1953)

The trusty CSIRO struck gold again in 1953 when a team of its scientists led by Roger N. Morse developed the first functioning solar-powered water heating system, which was based on a tank system devised by Morse in 1941 for the Meringa Station near Cairns.


Black box flight recorder (1953)

A spate of unsolved crashes of de Havilland Comet jetliners prompted Aussie researcher David Warren to come up with the idea for a device that could record cockpit sounds back in 1953. Warren, whose father perished in 1934 in a mysterious plane crash, created a prototype in 1956, and the gadget was commercialised not long after, improving airline safety immeasurably.


Shrink and crease free wool (1957)

The rising popularity of shrink- and crease-resistant artificial fabrics in the 1950s presented a threat to Australia's wool industry. Luckily the ever-inventive CSIRO came to the rescue in 1957 with the development of SiroSet. The process, which has been widely adopted internationally, allows for features like permanent pleats, while preventing shrinkage and creasing of the natural fibre.


Plastic spectacle lenses (1960)

Adelaide's Scientific Optical Laboratories scored a world first in 1960 with the launch of plastic spectacle lenses. The company used a plastic formulated in the US for aircraft windshields to develop the innovation. Cheaper, lighter and safer than glass lenses, they are now ubiquitous worldwide.


Disposable latex gloves (1964)

Rubber gloves were invented by an American doctor in 1894 but the first disposable latex gloves were manufactured by Melbourne's Ansell company in 1964. The firm used its expertise creating balloons and condoms to create the single-use gloves which, like that other Aussie invention the disposable syringe, have become a vital part of hygiene protocol in surgeries and hospitals around the world.


Box/cask wine (1965)

Dubbed 'Chateau Cardboard' or 'goon' on its home turf, box or cask wine may be sneered at by connoisseurs of the grape, but even they can't deny its ingenuity. The process for packaging vino in plastic bladders contained within boxes was invented and patented in 1965 by South Australian winemaker Tom Angove, who based his innovation on a bag in a box product containing battery acid.


Inflatable escape slide and raft (1965)

Australia made yet another crucial contribution to airline safety in 1965 with the invention of the inflatable escape slide, which doubles up as a life raft. Devised by Qantas employee Jack Grant, the blow-up apparatus has become a standard feature on passenger aircraft around the globe.


Zanamivir/Relenza (1989)

The world's first effective influenza treatment was invented in 1989 by a team of scientists from the Victorian College of Pharmacy and Monash University in collaboration with the CSIRO. While other flu-fighting medications including Tamiflu and Rapivab have since been developed, Zanamivir, which has the trade name Relenza, remains the best broad-spectrum flu drug on the market.


Polymer bank note (1988)

Developed during the 1980s by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the CSIRO, the first plastic banknote was issued Down Under in 1988. Popular with surfers for obvious reasons, the waterproof notes, which are far more durable than the paper alternatives and almost impossible to counterfeit, have been adopted by numerous countries including New Zealand, Canada and the UK.


Wi-Fi (1992)

Where would we be today without Wi-Fi? Yet another marvel developed by the CSIRO, the ground-breaking technology was perfected in 1992 by a team led by electrical engineer John O'Sullivan, who chanced upon the breakthrough while researching equipment to detect black holes. The CSIRO has since raked in hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to its ownership of Wi-Fi patents.


Extended wear contact lenses (1991)

Saving contact lens wearers the inconvenience of having to change their contacts on a daily basis, extended wear lenses can be worn continuously for up to 30 days and nights. They were invented in 1991 by CSIRO scientists Gorden Meijs and Hans Griesser as part of an international collaboration.


Spray-on skin (1999)

This near-miraculous method of reconstructing burn-damaged skin involves taking a culture of the patient's healthy skin, growing it in a lab and spraying the results on damaged areas. The technology was developed in the 1990s by Perth-based plastic surgeon and burns specialist Fiona Wood together with scientist Marie Stoner. To date it has been used to great effect on 1,000 patients, including victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.




There are so many more great achievements from Down Under like the Hills Hoist, Underwater Torpedo and the Surf Ski, but if we told you about them everyone will want one.

So here is just a selection of Australia's major contributions to the world as we know it.

Hope you enjoyed our piece of information.

See you next time!

Written by SpaceSpecialists Ltd with a little help from Wikipedia and Money publications.

For more Australian inventions head to Wikipedia by clicking on the link below;

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