Six Australian innovations that changed the world

Some of the world’s important innovations have Aussie roots. From Wi-Fi to spray on skin, Australia is a nation of inventors.

4 min read
Australia is known for its laid-back culture, days by the beach and pies at the footy which all make up our true-blue identity. But, we’re also an ingenious bunch.

Some of the most important devices we use today were invented right here in the land down under.

1. Wi-Fi

In 1992 a determined Australian man by the name of John O’ Sullivan and his colleagues at CSIRO group stubbled across Wi-Fi. After originally looking into the faint echoes of black holes, they found a way to send signals to a destination without interruption and thus Wi-Fi as we know it was created.

In a world weighed down by wires, John and his team pioneered the way for Wi-Fi to become an innovation that spans across more than five billion devices worldwide. From hotspots in offices, public buildings, homes and even coffee shops.

Nowadays the first thing people ask at café or when they walk into your home is ‘what’s the Wi-Fi password’? Its technology is without a doubt, one of the biggest Aussie inventions of this century.

Patents for Wi-Fi technology bring the organisation millions of dollars in royalties every year. This Australian legacy lives on.

2. Cochlear Implants

cochlear implant or ‘bionic ear’ is a device which uses electrodes to stimulate auditory nerves, helping deaf people to hear. It has changed the lives of millions of deaf people and their families worldwide, and was invented in Australia in the 1970s.

Professor Graeme Clark had tried and tested many prototypes for what would become the cochlear implant over about 11 years – but wasn’t successful until 1978. Determined he’d mastered the device, he implanted it in Rod Saunders’ ear. The results were jaw-dropping. Professor Graeme Clark bionic ear was a success. He retired a very happy man.

Young woman holding a toddler with two cochlear implants

Many recipients of the cochlear implant report their lives have been significantly enriched. The ability to hear and learn is a huge benefit. Hearing can raise self-confidence levels and improve relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and offers expanded job and social opportunities. A life changing Australian innovation, thanks to Graeme Clark!

3. Ultrasound scanner

An ultrasound scanner is an incredible Aussie invention. It’s a machine that enables expecting parents to view their unborn child via a screen and diagnoses medical problems in soft tissue in the body, helping to treat medical conditions.

In the 1950s doctors were growing concerned about taking X-rays of pregnant women. They experimented with different techniques and found small differences in ultrasound echoes bouncing off soft tissue in the human body, converting them into TV pictures. In 1961, David Robinson and George Kossoff from the Ultrasonic Research Group of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories built the first ultrasound scanner.

Ultrasound technology, developed for foetal health, has become an important part in the medical field and practice. It’s a life changing solution that has changed the world forever.

4. Electric drill

An essential item for all your beloved DIY projects, you can thank an Aussie duo for this invention.

In 1889, two electrical engineers Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain designed the world’s first ever electric drill. The original design weighed 75kg and was designed for rock and coal. Six years later, the design was further developed by German brothers Wilhelm and Carl Fein who created a portable, handheld version.

One of the world’s best man-made tools. This Australian invention has revolutionised industries and made it possible for people to do more extensive work.

5. Google Maps

Where would we be without our favourite travel companion, Google Maps? The days of paper maps are long gone thanks to two Sydney Danish brothers, Jens and Lars Rasmussen as well as two Australians Stephen Ma and Neil Gordon who founded ‘Where 2 Technologies’. In 2005 this company was purchased by the internet giant Google, and the technology was turned into what we now know as Google Maps.

“You are here” are three words that billions of people recognise around the world. The Sydney-based developers of Google Maps have been recognised for their outstanding entrepreneurship and contribution to the industry. Top blokes!

6. Spray-on skin

In 1999, Perth-based plastic surgeon and burns specialist Professor Fiona Wood, first came into the spotlight after treating burn victims of the 2002 Bali bombings, with spray-on skin.

She developed a technique by removing healthy skin cells from the burn patients, multiplying them, and created a solution that sprayed over the burned and damaged skin. The results were astounding. The revolutionary treatment helped regenerate the victim’s skin with less scarring than traditional skin grafting techniques, helping victims to heal more quickly.

This Australian life-saving treatment is now used by medical professionals worldwide to effectively treat victims with burn-related issues and complications. It helps to alleviate difficulties with a patient’s overall recovery.

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