South African Inventions

Springbok team is made of casino games enthusiasts, but we're also fans of all things South African. You might have read our articles about stunning SA landscapes, amazing wildlife, and a whole array of activities which draw crowds from all corners of the Earth. To continue this tradition, we've decided to dedicate the month of April to weird and fabulous inventions stemming from this magnificent country. Some of these you may be familiar with, but did you know it's South Africa and its residents we've got to thank for?

Fancy A Cup of Rooibos Tea?

Worldwide known as rooibos and in the UK as redbush tea, universally popular bush tea comes from a plant growing in South African fynbos. Featuring characteristic needle-like leaves, the plant is used to brew a beverage with a colour and taste similar to that of hibiscus tea. Long time ago, local people were climbing the mountains to collect its leaves, transporting them down with the help of donkeys, then chopping them up and leaving to dry in the sun.

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If You Want to Be Heard, Use Vuvuzela

Fans of rival sports teams always tend to compete by trying to outcheer one another. If you've got a Vuvuzela handy, there's no question as to who will win this particular battle. Inspired by a kudu horn which was traditionally used to summon villagers for community meetings, this unique instrument is widely used at South African football matches, and as of 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, it became equally popular with the global football community.

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The worlds first ever heart transplant

Did you know that the first ever heart transplant, performed by dr James D.Hardy in 1964, involved a chimpanzee's heart placed in the chest of a dying American upholsterer? The operation was a limited success as the donated heart continued beating for only an hour or so. Dr Hardy did not have a human donor available, but South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard fortunately did.

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SA-Born CAT Scan Inventor Wins the Noble Peace Prize

Another famous South African made a massive contribution to the modern medicine. Together with a British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield, in 1972 South Africa-born physicist Allan Cormack invented computed tomography, also known as a CT or CAT scan. The first CAT scanners, installed in 1974, were designed for head imaging only, but only couple of years later "whole body" systems also became available.

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Pretorian-Born Elon Musk Knows No Boundaries

Who among us hasn't heard of Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, co-founder and CEO of Neuralink, and one of the most powerful people in the world? This amazingly creative and daring Canadian investor and engineer was born in Pretoria in 1971. As a child, he was a passionate reader who found Isaac Asimov's Foundation series inspiring enough to base his entire life on.

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The Glue that Holds Together a Spacecraft

George Montague Pratley, born in Johannesburg in 1917, was an optimist and a man of vision. Since he first founded the Pratley Group, he refused to let failure become part of his vocabulary and consequently came up with several ingenious inventions. During the early 1960s Pratley laboratory developed Pratley Plastic Putty, a glue designed to hold together components within an electrical box.

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Thin Solar Cells Make Solar Technology Affordable

Harvesting solar energy was once reserved for those with ample funds, but thanks to professor Vivian Alberts, that's no longer the case. A former chair of Johannesburg University’s Physics Department managed to create thin-film solar module technology which features a high conversion rate while making the whole affair much more affordable than it used to be.

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Fully Functioning Oil-Can Guitar

In 2001, Cape Town's engineer and guitarist Graeme Wells came up with an interesting idea for a fun and cheap souvenir. Using 5L oil can, he produced a fully functioning guitar which became far more popular than he had hoped for. These unique scrap-metal instruments made it to the concerts of Jimmy Dludlu, the popular SA jazz musician, and were even purchased and used by UB40.

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Paper Tickets are Things of the Past

Going to cinema, theatre or concerts used to mean you had to go out and purchase tickets, making sure not to misplace them before the actual event takes place. Problem solved, thanks to Percy Tucker, life-long supporter of  SA live arts who was born in the small town of Benoni, Gauteng in 1928. Despite the fact he knew next to nothing about computers, Mr Tucker was the founder of the world's first fully computerised ticket-booking system. Computicket was introduced in South Africa in 1971 and soon went national, forever changing the way entertainment tickets are marketed worldwide.

Safe Grilling with the Cobb Grill

Concerned about numerous fires which were accidentally started by tipping over paraffin stoves, a South African inventor by the name of Ken Hall came up with the Cobb grill. Mr Hall's grill features a container which stays cool to the touch and provides a safe alternative for cooking steaks and fish, baking pizzas, roasting potatoes and veggies, and even heating up pasties. There's no need to burn down the neighbourhood just because we feel peckish, is there? Editors of the Time magazines though so too and consequently listed the Cobb Grill among the best inventions of 2001.