Awards for South Africans July 21 2017, 0 Comments
May I state the obvious? We live in interesting times. As always!
The history of South Africa has given us lots to talk about. The wildness of the terrain has yielded so much to see. Diverse people live together in this colourful nation.
As South Africans, we have shown great resourcefulness in finding solutions to problems over the decades, even centuries. So, a little about our heritage of success, for which we could be forgiven for awarding ourselves a medal. No, make that a huge, silver trophy!
3 December 1967, on the tip of our African continent, Dr Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant. It was uncharted territory. A domain unexplored in humans. It was very risky since once he had removed the patients failing heart, there was no turning back. Either the recipient would never wake up or they would wake up with a functioning heart. If the heart did beat and give life, how well and for how long? There was no precedent. No one knew.
Louis Washkansky did wake up and Dr Barnard became the first ever to succeed in transplanting a human heart into another person. Kudos, trophies, medals and plenty of certificates all round. Barnard became an international celebrity and performed another ten heart transplants, one of the patients surviving for 23 years.
Another Doctor, Dr Selig Percy Amoils created a new method of cataract surgery, using his cryoprobe. He developed this method at Baragwanath Hospital and was awarded the Queen’s Award for Technological Innovation in 1975. His invention gave back sight to many, who could now enjoy their successes in the light. This put South Africa on the world’s stage of medical advancement again. His invention has since been on display in the Kensington Museum in London.
Another exceptional advancement in medical technology was the CAT scan. This was developed in Cape Town by physicist Allan Cormack and his associate Godfrey Hounsfield. It required medical and mathematical skill and innovation in order to achieve their goal: a scanner that could scan the whole body and translate the data into meaningful images. These scans were clearer than static X-Ray plates and took the medical world a leap forward in diagnostic ability.
Their work also deserved an enormous trophy and was recognized through a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.
A CAT scanner is used routinely today in the diagnosis and management of many medical conditions and allows for much better and more specific treatment.
One more South African medical invention: The Smartlock safety syringe.
The Smartlock syringe automatically retracts the needle into a sheath and locks it in place as the needle is withdrawn the patient. Therefore, no needle caps to place over used needles or a specific ‘sharps’ disposal container. This meant safety for all concerned.
Interesting times indeed. May our people continue earning awards for South Africa, whether in science or culture, sport or engineering.
In our next blog post, I will feature some other, world-renowned inventions by South Africans who deserve the gold medal of innovation and the trophy of success!