10 South Africans Who Changed the World
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Ten South Africans Who Changed the World

South Africans have invented some remarkable things over the years that may well have changed your life.

Though some famous individuals such as Elon Musk and Mark Shuttleworth are global household names, others, like Chris Barnard, who conducted the first-ever heart transplant, may be less well-known.

Either way, these products, inventions and achievements by South Africans have left indelible marks on all our lives.

  • Chris Barnard

    1. Dr Chris Barnard

    The first heart transplant in the world took place in Cape Town in 1967 - performed by South African Dr Chris Barnard at the Groote Schuur Hospital. The procedure is now commonplace in hospitals throughout the world.

  • Allan Cormack

    2. Allan Cormack

    South African physicist Allan Cormack invented one of the most common - and essential - pieces of medical equipment still in use to this day: the computed axial tomography, or CAT, scan. Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield won the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the invention.

  • Ferdinand Chauvier

    3. Ferdinand Chauvier

    The swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier. Chauvier quickly realised that there was a huge market for taking the hassle out of cleaning swimming pools and went about inventing a machine that would do the job automatically.

  • George Pratley

    4. George Pratley

    The seemingly insignificant product that is Pratley's Putty may not exactly hold the excitement of the first-ever heart transplant, but it's done some remarkable things. The strong adhesive agent developed by George Pratley was carried on the Apollo 11 Eagle landing craft to the Moon and was used to patch a support on the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Aubrey Kruger

    5. Aubrey Kruger

    Large, unusually shaped concrete blocks common in harbours around the world, called dolos, may not be exciting, but they are critical to the preservation of many harbour walls. Aubrey Kruger invented these large geometric structures in 1963, and though they went on to be used around the world, he apparently saw very little profit from his important invention.

  • Q20

    6. Mr Robertson

    Mr Robertson (first name unknown), from KwaZulu-Natal, invented one of the best, and most important, multipurpose lubricants in the world: Q20. It repelled water and prevented rust, and Porche used it extensively on the VW Beetle, which had just been produced. But these days, it's seen widespread use around the world for a myriad of purposes, including stopping doors from squeaking.

  • Percy Tucker

    7. Percy Tucker

    In 1971, Percy Tucker from Benoni transformed the events and entertainment industry by inventing the world's first computerised ticketing platform - Computicket. Tired of the complex process for buying theatre tickets, he set about inventing a more efficient service.

  • Henri Johnson

    8. Henri Johnson

    In 1992, South African engineer Henri Johnson revolutionised cricket and tennis when he invented the world's first radar gun to measure the speed and angle of fast-flying balls. The gun works by sending out radio waves, which are reflected by any object in its path. The technology is highly accurate and instantaneous.

  • Elon Musk

    9. Elon Musk

    Elon Musk needs little introduction. He may just be the one South African who'll change the world most dramatically. Though currently best known for his leadership of companies like Tesla and Space X, he made his first fortune with X.com, an online financial services company that later became PayPal.

  • Mark Shuttleworth

    10. Mark Shuttleworth

    South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth's products are used on a daily basis, without even knowing it. That's because he founded the digital certificate company Thawte, later acquired by Verisign, which helps keep users safe on the internet. Shuttleworth also went on to develop Ubuntu, a popular and free Linux-based operating system.


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