THE BRITISH LIBRARY

In through the outfield blog

09 November 2012

Book on Australian inventions

The BBC has written a story about a new book called Australia's greatest inventions and innovations by Christopher Cheng and Lindsay Knight. It's published as a paperback, ISBN 9781742755649 and is aimed at children.

I haven't seen the book but was interested in the comment taken presumably from the book "In some cases inventors from other countries may also have a legitimate claim, but Cheng and Knight do not want the Australian research to go unnoticed." Ten examples of Australian invention were put forward. 

I'm not so sure that the black box flight recorder originated in Australia, although I believe it to be true that their work led to its adoption. Dave Warren's was working on the idea in 1953 but did not patent it. In August 1953, James Ryan of Minnesota applied for what became a Flight recorder US patent. Maybe it was a dead heat -- often ideas come about at the same time, as with the telephone.

The dual-flush toilet is attributed to Bruce Thompson in the early 1980s in what again seems to be unpatented work, but such toilets date back at least to three Californians applying for their Dual flush control for toilets patent in 1953.

I found their disposable syringes story intriguing -- apparently using penicillin in the old glass, reusable syringes meant that they easily clogged up, so a new plastic disposable syringe was invented just after World War II, using the plastic expertise of a local toy manufacturer. I don't know if it was the first, but this work was certainly published as an American patent, Device for injecting penicillin or similar liquids. Here's the drawing.

Disposable syringe patent image
Anything that encourages curiosity and interest in technology and design is wonderful, of course. I like to think I've never lost that sense of wonder, and stories behind how inventions come about are great -- provided it's remembered that the effort of commercialising the invention is also needed.

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