The Mother of Invention

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Mother of

South Africa:
the little known source for many of the
world’s great inventions & innovations!

South Africa is the little known source of many of the world’s great inventions and innovations. We need to rekindle that innovative spirit to keep up with the First World’s challenges and the developing world’s demands.

Progress in technology requires a progressive, innovative spirit. Just like Sherlock Holmes’ thinking, it requires deep thought, reasoning and deduction. It also requires courage & spirit to construct a theory and then to test it.

South Africa has spawned innovation for many years – often ignored or unknown by the general public due to the reticence of many of the innovators or inventors.

For example, the first ever photograph of the stars was taken from Cape Town. When Halley’s Comet arrived, for its “once every 76 year visit” South Africans at Sutherland took the first photograph and carried out the first spectral analysis of the perennial wanderer. Another South African invention is the white dividing lines for the centre of roads and also the potato crisp. Also the solid state laser and earth leakage trip- switch, which is essential for safety in the home and work place. These have all had major impacts worldwide.

It takes “big intellect” to conceive and implement such large projects as the Richard’s Bay Harbour, the world’s largest harbour implemented from one plan. The massive Lesotho Highlands Water scheme, (which delivers seemingly impossible amounts of water to South Africa through a series of underground tunnels; while providing Lesotho with foreign exchange and electricity) falls into the same league. The world’s first Corex Iron and Steel plant is located in Pretoria. It emits no smoke, dust or other effluent, which is pretty revolutionary for such heavy industry. There is now also one operational in Korea and one being built in Saldana Bay.

It is actually amazing to think that South Africa, with all its modern technology actually has one foot in the first and one in the third world. For example: South Africa has one of the best cell phone technology systems in the world, international satellite telecommunications, advanced medical facilities, and many more. Also military technology developed in South Africa has been adapted for use in several industries. For example the advanced military radar systems are now used in giant microwave ovens to cook food for the catering industry. The South African TV coverage of sporting events is the best in the world. SABC camera crews lock onto a golf ball or a soccer ball with incredible accuracy. The reason is that SABC cameras are mounted on to the missile weapons platform of the SA designed Rooivalk attack helicopter. So the camera tracks the golf ball just as the Rooivalk tracks the deadly missile.

Believe it or not, Johannesburg was the first CITY in the world to be fully electrified. This happened one day before New York. South Africa has developed the world- beating zebra electric battery to power electric cars, as sectors of the world demanded leadfree petrol and cleaner burning engines. The buses that carried the athletes at the Barcelona Olympic Games used zebra batteries.

SA advanced encryption technology placed the country at the centre of the Gulf War crisis when NATO could not break the codes on the B 52’s previously supplied to Saddam Hussein.

Further encryption methods are widely being used by leading global players in smart card technology. A South African company is at the forefront of the world’s leading credit card development teams. The MNet decoder is a world leader in signal encryption for private pay television channels.

Sasol’s Oil from coal processes are at the forefront of world oil derivative technology. The US space programme would never have gotten off the ground if it wasn’t for SA metallurgical technology where special metals were applied to the outside of the space capsules, so enabling re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere

The African innovative spirit coupled with domestic and international strategic alliances is the makeup required for significant building blocks in South Africa’s future growth.

(ref: “World Trade and Investment” Volume 3, 1998; extracts from an article by Dr. Kelvin Kemm)

By: Alison von Ketelhodt

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