10 Kiwi Inventors and Inventions that International Student Should Know

Thursday, May 14, 2020

This is our list of New Zealand inventors and their inventions that we think international students should know about. You may have never heard of them before, but you probably have been influenced by their inventions or will have used one in your life. 

Arthur Lydiard – Jogging

In the 1960’s Arthur Lydiard started an athletic revolution by introducing the idea of jogging as we know it today to athlete’s training regimes. He was the first coach to train his athletes using an endurance base before making use of training in periods for peak performance in that athletes chosen discipline. He was an expert at preparing his athletes to deliver their best time on the event day. In 1961, he organised the world’s first jogging club in Auckland and encouraged distance running at a slower pace to improve cardiovascular health, at a time when people thought distance running was unhealthy and dangerous.

Ernest Rutherford - Nuclear physics

In 1902 he started working on a theory involving splitting atoms and in 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the nuclear atom, splitting the atom and initiating the field of Nuclear Physics. As a result, he is forever known as the ‘father of nuclear physics’. Rutherford spent most of his career working in universities in Canada (McGill University) and England (University of Manchester, University of Cambridge) after graduating from the University of Cambridge. He also gained a DSc from the University of New Zealand (he studied at Canterbury University). He died in 1937 and is buried in Westminster Abbey, near Isaac Newtown and other British scientists.

Colin Murdoch – The disposable hypodermic syringe, child-proof medicine container and tranquiliser gun

In 1956 Murdoch, a pharmacist and veterinarian, developed the patent for the disposable syringes still used today, and in 1959 developed his idea to help sedate animals, creating the first ever tranquiliser gun. These inventions have helped save millions of lives by avoiding cross-infection by reusing glass needles and safely securing animals for treatment. Colin lived most of his life in Timaru, New Zealand until his death in 2008.

Norma McCulloh – The hand vacuum pump, Breath of Life Resuscitator, One Puff Aspirator

In 1970 Norma invented the hand pump by simply sliding a cardboard tube inside another one. In the late 90’s Norma and her son Richard were walking on the street when a lady keeled over in front of them and Richard needed to give her mouth-to-mouth to revive her. Norma, happy to see the lady okay but worried that her son may get sick from helping the stranger, happened on the idea of turning her vacuum pump idea into a resuscitator. Working with medical experts she came up with a device made of two plastic cylinders with a two-directional valve, able to suck air into a person's mouth and let it out when they began breathing again. She worked into her 70’s so that she could bring the life-saving product to market and eventually sold the patent to a European company before her death in September 2010, aged 77. Her son Richard still makes resuscitators for animals under the name McCulloh Medical.

Ernest Godward – Non-slip eggbeater, mechanical hedge clipper, rubber hair-curler, petrol economiser and spiral hairpin

He founded the Godward Spiral Pin and New Inventions Co Ltd, which was a listed company on the NZ Stock exchange and patented the spiral hairpin in 1899. This was one of many inventions in a life that started in his birthplace of England, before his emigration to NZ in 1886 at age 17 and then, following a brief spell in London in 1913, his New York based existence from 1916 until his death in 1936, while onboard a ship that was returning to New Zealand. All his domestic inventions were created from 1899 to 1913 and included a burglar-proof window, a rubber hair-curler, a mechanical hedgeclipper, a non-slip eggbeater, a kerosene pump–siphon, a tank filter and a lid for cans. The spiral hairpin, patented worldwide, brought him worldwide fame and a fortune (he kept the NZ and Australian rights but sold the US rights for £20,000, a fortune in 1901. However, it was his petrol economiser, developed from 1908 until his death, that allowed him to travel around the world. He invented 72 models of the economiser and by the 1930s was recognised as the world’s leading authority on the internal combustion engine.

Alan Gibbs – High speed amphibious vehicles

You may know his name because of the famous Gibbs sculpture farm in Auckland, or you may know him for his road-legal amphibious car that was first shown to the public in 2003. In June 2004 Sir Richard Branson drove one of Gibbs’ Aquada cars to break the record for an amphibious crossing of the English Channel.

William Atack – Referee whistle

In 1884 William Atack became the first referee in the world to use a whistle to control a sports game, when he thought of the idea after touching the dog whistle in his pocket. While the inventor of the first ever whistle (the Acme Thunderer, pictured) was Englishman Joseph Hudson in 1883, his invention was for the Police. Referees didn’t start to use his whistle until the 1890’s, making William Atack the first referee to use a whistle to control a match.

John Eustace – The Paint tin lid

The paint tin lid that is still universally used today was invented over a century ago in Dunedin by tinsmith John Eustace. In 1884 he was asked by Smith & Smith, who sent paint all around the country, to make some paint tins which did not leak. Unfortunately, he never made a fortune off his idea, as his provisional patent ran out after six months and his idea was pirated by British manufacturers - Eustace sent his prototype to England to have a die made so it could be mass-produced, but seeing his patent would expire they used the die to produce their own versions. Soon the Americans were doing the same. However, Smith & Smith bought their lids from no one else and his business was profitable enough that meant he established a new factory in 1925. By 1927 he was making 100 tonnes of tin cans per year. He continued to make the lids until he retired, and his son John William Eustace took over.

Bill Robinson – Seismic shock absorber

He designed the lead rubber bearing (LRB) seismic isolation device in 1974. This invention has saved many buildings from being destroyed in earthquakes and is used in under more than US$100 billion worth of structures around the world. Most significant bridges in NZ use the technology and buildings that use LRB include; Te Papa Tongarewa (National Museum of New Zealand), the new Wellington Hospital, Victoria University Library, Wellington Parliament Buildings, Bhuj Hospital (India), C-1 building (Tokyo), University of Southern California Teaching Hospital (US) and Christchurch Women's Hospital.

Keith Alexander – Springfree trampoline

As well as working on wool presses, Alan Gibbs amphibious vehicles, the Martin Jetpack and jet boat technology, Alexander is an inventor in his own right. In 2007 he came up with the idea for the Springfree trampoline and he continued developing it until he designed something that he was happy for his children to use. The current Springfree tramp has a safety net and no springs, greatly reducing injuries in the backyard. He is the current professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch.

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