The continent-nation of Australia is known for many things, such as koalas, kangaroos and summer in December, but it is less publicized that people from Down Under created some of the most vital inventions of our time. Christopher Cheng and Lindsay Knight shed light on Australians’ contributions to technology in their book “Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations.” BBC lists 10 of the many Australian inventions that have become staples in our lives.
Today, most people cannot function without their Wi-Fi-powered devices, but astronomer and electrical engineer John O'Sullivan was once laughed at for his idea of making wireless LAN faster and more reliable. According to O’Sullivan, his technology was developed from radio astronomy; a failed experiment to detect exploding mini black holes eventually became the networks that power our computers, smartphones and tablets.
Black box flight recorders
The “black box” is a pivotal piece of evidence in plane crashes, and was invented by chemist Dave Warren. After the death of his father in a 1934 crash, Warren developed the idea of creating a device that could record the final moments in the cockpit as well as data from flight instruments, and perfected it in 1953.
Hills clothes hoists
The simple drying solution for freshly laundered clothes was invented by Lance Hill in 1945 for his wife, who wanted an alternative to clotheslines; Hill hoists are still popular in Australia and New Zealand today.
Dr. Graeme Clark invented the “bionic ear” after being inspired by a trip to the beach where he pushed a blade of grass into a seashell that resembled the inner ear. In 1967, he began developing the technology for cochlear implants by stimulating the cochlea, which facilitates hearing, with cochlea. The FDA approved his invention in 1985.
Inventor Bruce Thompson developed the dual-flush toilet as a water-saving device in arid Australia. The toilet works with two buttons; one that executes a full water flush for solid waste and another that executes a half water flush for liquid waste. The toilets are most popular in Australia but are quickly becoming more common elsewhere.
The Mountbatten Brailler is a portable, electric version of the original Braille typewriter, the Perkins Brailler. It was developed after British statesman Lord Louis Mountbatten wrote in his will of the need for a modern, low cost, portable brailler. The Brailler was invented by Ernest Bate at the Royal National College for the Blind and was originally manufactured in Australia.
Super Sopper Rollers
Gordon Withnall invented the giant vehicle mop in 1974 after friends challenged him to create something that could soak up the water from their rained-out golf course. Today, super sopper rollers are used to maintain a multitude of sports fields, including cricket, football hockey and horseracing.
The Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney, in conjunction with several laboratories in different countries, developed technology that would allow for the examining of unborn babies without using X-rays. In 1976, the Ausonics Company in Australia commercialized the UI Octoson ultrasound.
Disposable syringes were developed in part by Australian toymaker Charles Rothauser at the request of Harry Willis of A.M. Bickford and Sons, a drug company attempting to develop inexpensive plastic syringes. Rothauser’s business, the Quality Toy Co., was using plastic to manufacture dolls; he used his process to create polyethylene molds for syringes, and later used polypropylene.
The Reserve Bank of Australia sought out government scientists to develop a banknote that could not be counterfeited. They developed a polymer note with a transparent panel and hologram embedded in the note. The currency, released in 1988, is not only virtually counterfeit proof; it is also waterproof and lasts four times longer than conventional money.