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.
Australians have made incredible and life-changing discoveries in the area of medicine with the development of the Cochlear implant, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Ultrasound, Penicillin, the Cardiac Pacemaker and IVF. Our love of food has given rise to the Chiko Roll, Vegemite, Anzac Biscuits, the Granny Smith apple, Lamingtons, and the Pavlova. Our quirky nature has produced the Victa mower, the Hills Hoist, Dynamic Lifter fertiliser, the Esky and the wine cask. And in 1933 a farmer wrote to the Ford car company asking it to develop a vehicle that was suitable for ‘taking the family to Church on Sundays’ and for taking ‘my pig to town on Mondays’; a year later, the first ‘utility’ or ‘ute’ rolled off the Ford production line.
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.
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.
Written by Simon Torok