Innovation and Australian inventions

Innovation and Australian inventions

Australians are great inventors. We have a history of ideas and thinking up new ways of doing things. Perhaps our inventiveness comes from the fact we have unique problems. Or maybe it’s our geographic isolation: in the past, if we didn’t come up with a solution, no-one else would.

Using a great Australian invention from 1940: zinc cream (image: Scope).

Many thousands of years ago, Indigenous Australians invented boomerangs to help them hunt. Australians have been inventing ever since.

So what exactly is an invention? It’s a design or a way of doing something that is new. It’s rare for an inventor to work in isolation; modern science is usually carried out by a team of people. Inventors usually take other people’s ideas and knowledge, and build on or adapt them. Isaac Newton, the famous 17th-century English physicist and mathematician, described this approach by saying, ‘If I have seen further it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants’.

Australians have been pioneers in so many fields. Our inventiveness has helped us live longer, made agriculture more efficient, industry more competitive and enriched our lives. It has also earned Australia billions of dollars in income.

While Australians have come first in many areas, we should also take pride in some narrow seconds. Lawrence Hargrave made wonderful advances in powered flight and came close to being the first person to fly in a powered machine. Henry Sutton designed, but never built, a ‘telephane’ to transmit moving images of the Melbourne Cup to people in Ballarat, 100 kilometres away. Forty years later, the first television incorporated many of the ideas behind the telephane.

Have a look at this video I did with the TV show Scope a few years ago when I was with CSIRO or our book, 101 Great Australian Inventions.

Perhaps you’ll be inspired to come up with a new idea, a new solution to a problem or a new device that makes life safer, better or more fun.


Date Posted:

April 13, 2016