The Recognition Minute
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!
The Origins of Sport January 09 2017, 0 Comments
As long as we have records of history there is evidence of people engaging in sport. Cave paintings, assumed to have been painted over 15 centuries ago have been found in France, depicting figures wrestling and sprinting. In Iraq a brass casting of two wrestlers was found among other remnants dated c2600 BC.
Ancient Greece has a well-known sporting heritage. The earlier forms of gymnastics took the form of religious bull-leaping and possibly bullfighting. In Homer’s poem, The Iliad, there are many portrayals of sport.
Monuments to the Egyptian Pharoahs (c200 BC) suggest many sports existed during those times, including weight-lifting, long jump, swimming, rowing, flying (believe it or not!), shooting, fishing and athletics, javelin throwing, high jump and even a form snooker.
Predictably, Greece first instituted formal sporting events with the Olympic Games first registered in 776 BC, Olympia, where we see the inclusion of boxing and athletics (run either naked or in armour!) as well as the sport of discus throwing amongst others. Unlike today where an athlete may receive a medal or a trophy in the form of a cup or a shield, a wreath usually made from an aromatic leaf (bay laurel) or the wild olive tree was awarded to the winners. Laurel wreaths are depicted on many contemporary trophies today, being recognized as a symbol of both sporting and academic victory.
Sport was played in it's many forms in many other countries in ancient times, such as China, Persia and Scotland.
During the middle ages, entire villages would compete against each other, sometimes in organized violent sports – a sort of war games. In contrast, Italy participated in jousting and fencing. In Great Britain, horse racing was a favourite of the well-healed. In 1711, The English Queen Anne founded the Ascot Racecourse, which has remained closely associated with Royalty ever since. The Royal Meeting held each June remains a major draw card, it’s highlight being the Gold Cup.
In more modern times, British colonialism helped spread particular games around the world such as cricket, football and tennis. The advent of the industrial revolution brought both increased leisure time and mass production, opening up various sports as a leisure activity to many more than ever before.
Today, we are spoiled for choice and sport has become an essential part of education and social activity for both participants and spectators. Without the cup, the medal, the trophy or just the humble wreath, the game would lose it’s edge and perhaps it’s players, too! The award for victory has always been recognized as a necessity and is not about to change now.