How Australians Changed The World

Video highlights from Aussie Icons with HG Nelson

Despite a tiny population, Aussies are an ingenious bunch.

We might receive more international recognition for our sporting prowess than our inventions, but us Australians certainly punch above our weight when it comes to creativity – and a new study proves it.

The Global Creativity Index, a measure of economic growth, competitiveness and sustainable prosperity, has found that Australia is the world’s most creative country.

Australians have been honoured with 14 Nobel laureates for their contributions to science, the highest rate per population of any country.

From scientific researchers to backyard inventors, citizens from our “clever country” have improved, extended and dramatically changed our daily lives.

Wine Cask

Frazier Lens

You may not know the name Jim Frazier, but you’ve probably already seen through his eyes. He’s the man who made Spielberg’s dinosaurs seem real in The Lost World, and who made James Cameron’s Titanic appear to be truly sinking.

While trying to develop ways to photograph insects, Aussie wildlife cinematographer Jim Frazier created a lens that would revolutionise filmmaking, allowing close-up pictures to a have depth of field.

After the high of global accolades, his world collapsed in the face of unwinnable corporate lawsuits and the hijacking of his patented invention – until someone discovered there was more than that one lens in Frazier’s shed.

Now, the Oscar and Emmy Award winner is on his way to revolutionising spyware.

Modern Ute

Polymer bank note

The Reserve Bank of Australia and CSIRO released the world's first polymer (plastic) banknotes in 1988 to commemorate Australia’s bicentenary.

In the 1990s, a new series of polymer banknotes were introduced, replacing the original decimal banknotes and making Australia the first country with a full series of polymer notes.

Polymer banknotes have many advantages over paper ones. They’re cleaner and more hygienic, last longer and can be recycled at the end of their life. The move to polymer has also made our banknotes more secure against counterfeiting.


Black box recorder

The world’s first flight recorder was invented by Aussie David Warren, a research scientist at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory in Victoria. The idea came to him after his involvement in the accident investigation for the world’s first jet-powered commercial aircraft.

After realising how useful a recording of what happened on the flight would have been, and seeing the world’s first miniature recorder at a trade fair, David had a lightbulb moment that would save thousands of lives and forever improve aviation safety.

“I put the two ideas together. If a businessman had been using one of these in the plane and we could find it in the wreckage and we played it back, we’d say, we know what caused this,” he told George Negus Tonight.

Victa Lawn mower


A group of five CSIRO scientists invented wireless LAN technology, otherwise known as Wi-Fi, which has revolutionised the world. The team used radio-astronomy to crack the problem of radio waves bouncing off surfaces indoors.

The research organisation earned more than $430 million in royalties until its international patents ran out in 2013.

School of Air

Artificial Pacemaker

When it comes to medical inventions, few have saved more lives than the artificial pacemaker.

Though Medical researchers discovered the human heart could be contracted by applying an electrical impulse in the 1890s, but it wasn’t until decades later that the world’s first pacemaker was created.

In 1962, Aussie doctors Edgar H. Booth and Mark C. Lidwill invented the artificial pacemaker. While it was a simple model compared with today’s pacemakers, the device reportedly saved the life of a stillborn infant.


Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay