Top 10 Life-Changing, Famous Inventions from South America
The author Tim O’Reilly once said, “an invention has to make sense in the world it finishes in, not in the world it started.” As we all know, in the history of humankind, there have been plenty of inventions that have changed the quality of our lives forever. The light bulb, the wheel, and the TV are just some of the many creations whose impact has reached the whole world—and have become essential aspects of everyday life. In this blog post, we will see ten of the most-recognized inventions in South America that have not only shined, saved lives.
Invention vs Innovation
If we’re going to talk about inventions, first, we need to establish what we mean by that. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an invention is something that has never been made before as well as the process therein. Meanwhile, an innovation is an improvement or significant contribution toward something that has already been invented. So, according to these definitions, Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, while Steve Jobs was an innovator.
While Latin America has its fair share of innovators like Luis Von Ahn and Carlos Slim, let’s narrow our focus to the greatest inventions that were first made in South America!
The Great Inventions in South America
This list of the ten greatest inventions that were first made in South America cover all sorts of topics like medicine, forensics, transportation, tools, and sports. Each one proves the power of innovation and the impact it’s had on our global society.
1. Neonatal Artificial Bubble – Perú
Claudio Castillano Lévano (from Perú) invented the neonatal artificial bubble to improve the intensive medical care of newborns at risk. It’s a portable incubator with a respirator (known as the Incuven). Claudio and his team worried about the fact that 15 million children worldwide are born prematurely each year, and about 1 million of them don’t survive their first 24 hours. According to the Global Action Report on Preterm Birth, Latin America accounted for approximately 4% of the world’s neonatal deaths in 2017, with an estimated 102,522 newborn deaths across the region. These facts made Claudio and his team create a device capable of providing fast and simultaneous thermal (heat) and pneumatic (air) therapy to newborns. In less than two seconds, the bubble envelops the newborn in a warm, oxygen-enriched, sterile environment, saving the preterm babies from danger.
2. Photography – Brazil
Hércules Florence (born in France – raised and died in Brazil) is considered one of the developers of photography, using the matrix negative/positive, which is still in use. This is a technique for the dye-transfer process in photography, and it consists of preparing colored photographic prints, which are recorded on a gelatin negative (image that reproduces the bright portions of the photo as dark, and the dark parts as light areas). It is then transferred to paper to become what we know as a photograph. Nowadays, this technique is used mostly by professional photographers, since cell phone cameras have replaced the original process of photography.
3. The Ballpoint Pen – Argentina
László József Biró (born in Hungary – raised and died in Argentina) designed a pen with oil-based ink and a tungsten ball that allowed the ink to roll on to paper. During the early 1930’s, Biró noticed that newspaper ink dried much more quickly than that from a fountain pen, and the quick-drying ink used by printing presses was too thick to drip. This inspired him to create something easier to use and so he developed the ballpoint pen.
4. The Artificial Heart – Argentina
The doctor Domingo Liotta (Argentina) created the first artificial heart which was successfully transplanted into a person in 1969. The recipient lived for 64 hours with the artificial heart pumping oxygenated blood through his body until a human heart was available for transplant. This procedure demonstrated the capability of artificial hearts to assist in keeping cardiac patients alive before they could get a transplant.
5. The Stent – Argentina
The vascular radiologist Julio C. Palmaz (Argentina) invented the stent used to treat cardiovascular disease. It’s an extensible mesh that’s used to open arteries, veins, and other body ducts that have been previously plugged or blocked. It helps keep coronary arteries open and reduces the chance of a heart attack. In addition to this, the procedure of putting the stent is not a major surgery and the time of recovery is typically brief. After getting out of the hospital, people can return to work within a few days to a week.
6. Hot Air Balloon – Brazil
Bartolomeu Lorenço de Gusmão (Brazil) was the mind behind initial tests for the air balloon, and it was the first medium used by humans to travel by air, in 1783. In the beginning, around 1709, the balloons were made of paper bags with hot air inside. Once the air in the bag became lighter than the air outside, the balloon pushed itself up with a basket attached to it.
7. Dactyloscopy System – Argentina
Juan Vucetich (Argentina) was the first mind who thought about identifying people’s fingerprints (criminals, for instance) with a special system. In 1981,Vucetich first collected samples from 23 prisoners for research purposes. Years later, tasked with investigating a murder of two children in Argentina, he set out to find who did it by using this system. He compared the suspect’s fingerprints with a bloody fingerprint the police found on the crime scene, and found out they matched. Confronted with the evidence, the suspect confessed; and the first successful use of fingerprint identification in a murder investigation was made.
8. Liquid Fuel Propulsion Engine for Rockets – Perú
Pedro Paulet (Perú) drew his inspiration after he read Jules Verne’s novel “From the Earth to the Moon.” He dedicated himself to his studies and even designed his own spacecraft during his youth. Eventually, in Paris, he built the first liquid-fueled rocket engine. Years later, Wernher Von Braun, the director of NASA and chief designer of the Saturn V rocket (which carried the human to the moon), drew on Paulet’s ideas for designing the spacecraft. He praised the Peruvian by writing in his book “History of Rocketry and Space Travel” that Paulet should be considered as the pioneer of the liquid fuel propulsion engine.
9. Traffic Lights for the Blind – Argentina
The inventor Mario Dávila (Argentina) patented a special traffic light for the visually impaired. His device was an electronic panel which was set on the post of a traffic signal at an intersection. When the green light was on and cars ran by, the panel made an intermittent sound that indicated to blind people that they couldn’t cross.
10. Brain-Machine Interfaces – Brazil
The scientist Miguel Nicolelis (Brazil) and his team were behind the symbolic kick-off during Brazil’s 2014 World Cup’s inauguration, which consisted of a mind controlled exoskeleton suit that would allow a quadraplegic man to stand up from his wheelchair and kick a soccer ball to inaugurate the World Cup. That year everyone was impressed by the fact that a paraplegic in a robotic suit performed the kick off. Nicolelis’s idea was to create and perfect a suit to assist people with motor disabilities, which is why he made this suit that converted electric signals from the brain into movements.
Time to innovate in your life!
South America has been a very important part of history, after all, without these brilliant minds we wouldn’t have these ten amazing inventions! If you’d like to know more about Latin-American culture, customs, and interesting facts, join our community at Homeschool Spanish Academy while learning Spanish, one of the most amazing languages in the world! See you around!
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