The most recent two are of course the digital laser perfected by Sandile Ngcobo and the raising of the Costa Concordia by Nick Sloane.
A timeline of inventions shows South Africans have always been at the cutting edge, especially when it comes to medical inventions, one of which has been used to aid former President Nelson Mandela.
Which of the following inventions could you not do without today?
1946: Trevor Wadley designs the Wadley Loop, a unique circuit for cancelling frequency drift , and the Tellurometer, an accurate tool for measuring distance.
1950: A KwaZulu-Natal resident known only as Mr Robertson invents Q20 to displace water from the distributor caps of his VW Beetle which apparently used to hate wet weather.
1950: Sasol is the world’s ﬁrst oil-from-coal reﬁnery, providing 40% of South Africa’s fuel.
1962: Born in Greytown, KwaZulu-Natal, Ronald Price Hickman designs the original Lotus Elan, Elan +2 and the Europa, and in 1972 Black & Decker took his Workmate, a portable workbench, global.
1962: Selig Percy Amoils creates a new method of cataract surgery at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto. He also invented the rotary epithelial scrubber used in corrective laser eye surgery, used on former President Nelson Mandela, whom Amoils has treated since 1994.
1963: Used to prevent erosion and as oﬀ -shore reefs, the 20 ton Dolosse were developed by Eric Merriﬁ eld to break up wave action and protect harbour walls.
1967: Dr Chris Barnard performs the world’s ﬁrst heart transplant at the Groote Schuur Hospital on Louis Washkansky.
1969: Pratleys Pu y is created by George Pratley and was used in the Apollo XI mission’s Eagle landing cra on the moon.
1974: Springs resident Ferdinand Chauvier invents the Kreepy Krawly, used worldwide to clean swimming pools.
1975: The Sheﬀ el bogie, designed to overcome the limitations of narrow gauge railways, is built by SA Railways mechanical engineer Dr Herbert Sheﬀ el.
1979: The Computed Axial Tomography Scan or CAT scan is invented by Cape Town physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsﬁeld for which they won a Nobel Prize for medicine.
1991: The Hippo Water Roller, designed by Johan Jonker and Pettie Petzer, is an innovative container design to help carry up to 90l of water, obviating the need for people to carry buckets of water on their heads.
1992: Ever wondered how sports commentators know how fast a ball is travelling? It’s all thanks to Henri Johnson’s Speedball, which measures the distance, speed and angle of the ball.
1992: The Smartlock safety syringe is developed by Hendrikus van der Meyden and Alexis Wadman at the Vaal University of Technology. It is a three-piece disposable syringe that provides protection against needle-stick contamination.
1993: Gervan Lubbe builds a machine to electronically stimulate the body’s natural nerve impulses to relieve pain.
1996: Louis Liebenberg and Lindsay Stevenson reveal Cybertracker, a hand-held computer that provides a hi-technology method of tracking animals in the ﬁeld. The graphic interface makes it possible for illiterate people to enter detailed information, which helps scientists carry out their research.
1996: Rory Stear and Chris Staines release the wind-up radio.
2001: Ken Hall’s plastic mini-oven which he invented to reduce the risk of ﬁres in squatter camps, is named one of Time magazines best inventions of the year.
2002: Peter Ramsay and Mark Beagle from KwaZulu-Natal develop the world’s ﬁrst automatic microwave popcorn vending machine.
2008: Limpopo born Dr Mulalo Doyoyo creates Cenocell, a highly adaptable building material made from coal ash.
2008: South African architect Shaun Killa designed the Bahrain World Trade Centre, the ﬁrst skyscraper in the world to build wind turbines into its design.
2009: Richard Kgwahla invents a stackable building unit for mud houses and oﬀers a protective layer that ensures that mud is not washed away by rain.
2011: Professor David Woods of the University of Cape Town together with his team design and build the Freeplay Fetal Heart Rate Monitor. The device can be powered by wind-up and solar power, rechargeable batteries or mains.
2011: Ludwick Marishane wins the 2011 Global Student Entrepreneur-of-the-Year Award for Drybath, an invention that takes the water out of bathing.