Cape Town is the birthplace of several innovators who have created things many often don’t know stem from here. Here is a list of incredible things you may never have realised were invented by Western Cape locals.

30 Seconds


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Calie Esterhuyse was first inspired to invent this fast-paced board-game during a drunken games evening in Gordon’s Bay in 1996. The idea was born when one of the guests, a tennis player, suggested that all 20 guests play a game that involved writing down a name on a piece of paper and putting it in a bowl.

Each guest took a slip of paper and had only 40 seconds to describe it to their teammates. When the game was played again at another party in Great Brak River a year later, Calie had the idea to make the game a commercial board game.

It first launched in stores in 1998.

Callie was born in 1963 and matriculated from Paul Roos Gimnasium in Stellenbosch. He went on to study at Stellenbosch University.

Human-to-human heart transplant

On December 3, 1967, South African surgeon Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant, at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town.

This surgery broke boundaries, and took nine gruelling hours to perform.

The recipient of the heart was a grocer named Louis Washkansky, who received the heart of Denise Darvall. Denise had tragically died after being knocked over by a car the day before.

The operation began on a Saturday evening and concluded shortly before 6am. After regaining consciousness, Washkansky was able to talk and on occasion walk, but his condition deteriorated quickly and he died of pneumonia eighteen days after receiving the heart.

The new R5 coin

Local artist Lady Skollie is the designer of South Africa’s brand new R5 coin. Born Laura Windvogel, Lady Skollie mainly focuses on sex, gender roles and lust in her artwork. She also explores the complexities of the expectations people often project onto romantic and sexual relationships.

“The snake-like qualities of the queue of people running into the distance was the primary motivation for the design by Lady Skollie… who drew inspiration from San rock paintings and the element of waiting for a better tomorrow (in a queue),” Lady Skollie said on a post when revealing her design on Instagram.

3-D Printing 

Stellenbosch University joined together with Tygerberg Hospital to open their own medical three-dimensional or 3D printing lab, which gave surgeons the opportunity to print life-size models of body parts of the patients they will be operating on.

3D printing technology has been used in the medical field for years but has always come at such an exorbitant cost that it has only ever been liable in the realm of funded research until this point.

The speed gun
The South African-made speed gun, developed by Henri Johnson of Somerset West, was formally launched at The Oval in England during the 1999 Cricket World Cup.

In 1992 Johnson invented the Speedball which was manufactured by South African firm Electronic Development House. The device is used to accurately measure the speed and angles of speeding objects such as cricket and tennis balls.

Picture: Pixabay

Article written by

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.