Proudly South African Inventions

For generations, South Africans have been inventing amazing technology, gadgets and devices that have made the lives better for so many people world-wide. Let’s take a look at some inventions and innovations from our homeland SA.

The Cat Scan.

The Computed Axial Tomography Scan or CAT was developed by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield in 1972. An X-ray source and electronic detectors rotate around the patient’s body and collect all the data needed to produce a cross-section of the body.

The Heart Transplant.

The world’s first heart transplant was performed by Dr Chris Barnard in Cape Town on 3 December 1967. The patient Louis Washkansky was suffering from heart failure at the time and Dr Barnard took the chance to operate on him. The success of the first heart transplant turned Dr Barnard into somewhat of a celebrity on the international scene, and he performed ten more transplants throughout his career.

The Kreepy Krauly.

The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier from Springs. Probably one of the most well-known South African inventions. Basically a vacuum cleaner for a swimming pool, it collects debris and takes the hassle out of pool cleaning, leaving pool-owners with more time to relax next to the pool instead of cleaning it.


Dolosse is large, unusually shaped concrete blocks weighing up 20 tons. The structures are designed to break up wave action and protect harbour walls and coastal installations. It was created by Eric Merrifield. Eric Mowbray Merrifield was the System Harbour Engineer of the Port of East London from 1st September, 1961 until his retirement in 1976.

Retinal Cryoprobe.

Selig Percy Amoils, a specialist in retinal diseases, created a new method of cataract surgery at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto in the mid-seventies.

The Smartlock Safety Syringe

Smartlock safety syringes provide improved protection against needlestick injury and contamination by Ebola virus, Hepatitis and HIV. This invention has saved countless lives.

The Speed Gun.

In 1992, South African engineer Henri Johnson revolutionised cricket and tennis when he invented the world’s first radar gun to measure the speed and angle of fast-flying balls.

Pratley Putty.

When the Americans landed on the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong and his team took a bit of South Africa with them – Pratley Putty – an insulator and adhesive agent developed by South African George Pratley in the 1960s. The exceptionally strong substance was used to keep parts of Apollo 11’s landing vehicle stuck together and is the only South African product to have ever gone to the moon. Pratley Putty is used today in applications ranging from sealing work to gluing wood and metal together. George Pratley initially wanted to create a type of glue to hold electrical components and inadvertently created something much stronger.

The Cenocell.

Professor Mulalo Doyoyo invented cementless concrete in 2005. Cenocell is a patented concrete material that is manufactured without the addition of Portland cement. It is produced from a chemical reaction involving fly ash, bottom ash, or flue-gas desulfurization gypsum with organic and inorganic chemicals.

Digital Laser.

The world’s first digital laser was invented by doctoral candidate, and CSIR researcher, Dr Sandile Nqcobo, and the former minister of Science and Technology cited it as a “testimony to the calibre of scientists that South Africa has.”

Hippo Water Roller

The barrel, originally called “Aqua Roller“, was the brainchild of two South African engineers, Johan Jonker and Pettie Petzer. These barrels have since been used all over the world in rural areas where people have to walk far to get access to clean water.

Shark Shield

Shark shield is a portable electronic device that emits an electromagnetic field and is used by scuba divers, spearfishing, ocean kayak fishing and surfers to repel sharks.

The Tellurometer

The Tellurometer was invented by Durban’s Trevor Lloyd Wadley in 1959. It measured distance by sending out an electronic wave, which a remote station absorbs and then re-sends back in a more complex form, measuring the distance the waves travelled.

and lastly a Bonus one,

Penis Transplant

In December 2014, the first successful penis transplant was performed on a 21-year-old man by specialists led by urologist, André van der Merwe from the University of Stellenbosch.

Stay Curious! Stay Blessed!

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Credit: Cover image taken by Karabo Mdluli

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