South Africa has a rich history of scientific innovation and has made significant contributions to the global community. South African inventors have left an indelible mark on the world, from pioneering medical procedures to practical household solutions. Here are seven notable South African scientific inventions that may surprise you.
- CAT Scan: In 1972, physicists Allan Cormack and Godfrey Hounsfield developed the Computed Axial Tomography Scan, commonly known as the CAT scan. This groundbreaking imaging technique uses X-rays and electronic detectors to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the body.
- Oil from Coal (Sasol): Established in 1950, Sasol (formerly known as the South African Gas Distribution Company) was the first company to successfully produce oil from coal. As the world’s largest oil-from-coal refinery, Sasol provides 40% of South Africa’s fuel.
- Heart Transplant: 1967 South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant. The patient, Louis Washkansky, survived for 18 days after the surgery. Barnard’s achievement brought him international fame and paved the way for future heart transplants.
- Transplant of 3D-Printed Bones: In 2019, Professor Mashudu Tshifularo made history by performing the first transplant of 3D-printed bones for reconstructive middle ear implants. The patient, a 40-year-old man with a skull defect, received a custom-made implant created using his own cells. The surgery was successful, and the patient recovered well.
- Biomedical Stem Cell Technology: The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) developed Africa’s first induced pluripotent stem cells. This breakthrough in biomedical research has facilitated the study of various diseases and potential treatments, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Full-Body X-Ray Scanner: Lodox Systems, a South African company, has developed the world’s only full-body X-ray scanner capable of producing high-quality images in just 13 seconds. The scanner is also safer than traditional X-ray systems, emitting up to 10 times less radiation. Originally developed for diamond mines to prevent smuggling and theft by mineworkers, Lodox Critical Imaging Technology is now used in medical settings.
- World’s First Digital Laser: Developed by doctoral candidate Sandile Nqcobo and CSIR researcher Professor Andrew Forbes, the digital laser uses a computer to control the shape and size of the laser beam. This allows for the creation of a wide variety of laser beams with unique properties.
South Africa has a long tradition of innovation and discovery in science. Its scientists and inventors continue to make valuable contributions to the world.