Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smart Oz

Talking with a student last week reminded me of how Australians are seen by other nations. When most people think of a typical Australian they probably imagine a beer drinking, barbeque eating, board surfing, horse riding, farmer. Wile this is true for many Australians, it stood out to me that Australia is not seen as a very intellectual country, well I hope to dispel that myth. Starting with this post, I'll look at some of the important "smart" things Australians have done.

Australia’s unique geography and relative isolation has made it a fertile ground for new ideas.

In 1879, Australians developed a way for ice to be manufactured artificially, allowing us to export meat to Great Britain on refrigerated ships.

In 1906, the surf lifesaving reel was designed so lifesavers could reach distressed swimmers with a rope attached to their vests.

In 1929, Alfred Traeger built a pedal-powered radio as the communications for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Australians were also responsible for more everyday inventions such as notepads (1902), aspirin (1915), the pacemaker (1926), penicillin (1940) the Hills Hoist clothesline (1946), the plastic disposable syringe (1949), the wine cask (1965), the bionic ear (1978), dual-flush toilet flush (1980), anti-counterfeiting technology for banknotes (1992) and long-wearing contact lenses (1999).


  1. Great! Australians are so cool. I think some of inventions you mentioned are very important for human beings. Anyway, I guess aspirin was synthesized by Felix Hoffmann, a German chemist, for the first time in the world. Is this correct? Of cause, there is a possibility that one of Australians was working with him for discovering aspirin.

  2. You are right Masa! i did some research and it turns out Aspirin has a very long and complicated history. I guess the 1915 aspirin claim is in reference to the first commercially available pure aspirin in tablet form?... There is a lot of controversy as to who/where Aspirin was first developed...

    I suppose it is similar to the penicillin 1940 claim. Most would know Scottish scientist Alexander Flemming first discovered Penicillin, but Australian medical researcher Howard Florey teamed up with German biochemist Ernst Chain at Oxford University in England. They purified penicillin from a special strain of Fleming's mould that they developed. The team showed how penicillin could fight bacterial infection in mice and humans, and then began working out how to mass-produce it.