SA inventions and achievements that are utilized across the globe


Dolosse are large concrete blocks weighing up to 30 tons that are used across the globe to break up wave action. They were invented by East London harbour engineer Eric Merrifield after a storm wreaked havoc on the Eastern Cape coast in 1963 and tore off 60 percent of East London harbour’s armour.


In 1971 Percy Tucker from Benoni transformed the events and entertainment industry by inventing the world’s first computerized, centralised ticket booking system. Today it’s hard to imagine that people stood in theatre queues for hours to obtain tickets. Computicket soon secured Ster-Kinekor as its first client. The service took off across South Africa and internationally.

Pratley Putty

Pratley’s famous glue is the only South African invention that has been to the moon. In 1969 the putty was used to hold bits of the Apollo 11 mission’s Eagle landing craft together. Krugersdorp engineer George Pratley invented his famous product in the 1960s while looking for a glue that would hold components in an electrical box.


Retinal Cryosurgery

Dr Selig Percy Amoils invented the Amoils Cryo Pencil while working at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto in 1965. It is the world’s first surgical tool that uses extreme cold to destroy unwanted tissue. His pencil made retinal detachment surgery and cataract extraction simple and safe. It was used to treat Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela’s eyes. His invention has transformed cryosurgery (the use of extreme cold produced by liquid nitrogen) for gynaecology, lung, heart, mouth, liver and prostate surgery.

First heart transplant

The world’s first heart transplant was performed by Dr Chris Barnard in Cape Town on 3 December 1967. After performing the first successful kidney transplant on Edith Black, in October 1967 Barnard informed Professor Val Schrire, who had built up the cardiac clinic: “Everything is ready for a heart transplant. We have the team and we know how to do it.”

The CAT scan

The CAT scan or computed axial tomography scan, (CT) was invented in 1972 by South Africa-born physicist Allan Cormack of Tufts University, Massachusetts and British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories, England. Cormack and Hounsfield were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their contributions to medicine and science.


Co-founder of PayPal, Elon Musk was born in Pretoria in 1971.

Oil from coal

Sasol is the world’s first – and largest – oil-from-coal refinery. It is situated in Sasolburg in South Africa and provides 40 percent of SA’s fuel.

Because SA did not have crude oil reserves, the country had to be protected against increasing crude oil imports. After many years of research and international negotiations, the South African Coal Oil and Gas Corporation was formed in 1950.

Major milestones include the first automotive fuel in 1955 and the construction of the National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa in 1967. Sasol has developed world-leading technology for the conversion of low-grade coal into value-added synfuels and chemicals.

Speed gun

In 1992 South African inventor Henri Johnson invented the Speedball which accurately measures the speed and angles of speeding objects such as cricket and tennis balls. The speed gun was formally launched at The Oval in England during the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

speed gun


Pinotage is South Africa’s signature variety wine grape that was bred in 1925 from a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut grapes.


Flightscope is a radar system used by professional golfers for analyzing trajectory, their launch angle, speed and direction. It was invented in 1989 by Henri Johnson.

Shark Shield

Shark Shield is a portable electronic device that emits an electromagnetic field which is used to repel sharks. The original wave-form used in the shark repelling technology was devised by three inventors, Graeme Charter, Sherman Ripley and Norman Starkey, and released in 1995 by POD Holdings Ltd, a joint venture company partly owned by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and the South African government.


Q20 was invented in 1950 in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal by a Mr Robertson, as a product to displace water from the distributor caps on the old VW Beetle which was notorious for stalling in wet weather. It was an effective water repellent, kept rust at bay, eased squeaky door hinges, and made it easy to release rusted or seized nuts and bolts. Initially Mr Roberts did not know what to call his invention, but he is reputed to have said that it had “20 answers to 20 questions”.


Some of the best traditional animal trackers in the world can’t read or write. To overcome this, South African physicist Louis Liebenberg and computer scientist Lindsay Steventon developed the world’s first software that has an image-based user interface enabling expert non-literate trackers to record complex geo-referenced observations on animal behaviour.

CyberTracker has proved a vital tool to conservation. It is used to monitor gorillas in the Congo, snow leopards in the Himalayas, butterflies in Switzerland, the Sumatran rhino in Borneo, jaguars in Costa Rica, birds in the Amazon, wild horses in Mongolia, dolphins in California, marine turtles in the Pacific and whales in Antarctica.

Economical Solar Power

In 2005, University of Johannesburg physicist, Professor Vivian Alberts, developed solar power technology that uses a micro-thin metallic film instead of the much thicker and considerably more expensive silicon-based solar photovoltaic cells.

Kreepy Krauly

The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier, a hydraulics engineer who came to South Africa from the Belgian Congo in 1951. Chauvier quickly realised that there was a huge market for a solution to the challenge of keeping swimming pools clean. He then set about inventing a machine that would do the job automatically and efficiently, powered by the ordinary operation of the pool’s filter. But it wasn’t until 1974 that the first Kreepy Krauly made its way into thousands of pools in South Africa and the world over.

Source: Capricorn Review