Top 5 Australian Discoveries

18 March 2019

1. Penicillin

The world can thank Adelaide scientist, Howard Florey, for developing penicillin as a medical treatment in the early 1940s - a time when it was common for people to die from a simple bacterial infection. For producing the world's first antibiotic, Florey was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945. The breakthrough revolutionised the way infectious diseases are treated today and is estimated to have saved over 82 million lives.

Petri Dish

2. The bionic ear

Born in country New South Wales, a young boy named Graeme Clark told his primary school teacher he wanted to ‘fix ears’ when he grew up – inspired by his deaf father. Three decades later, Professor Graeme Clark would become the first person to develop and successfully implant a bionic ear. Since that initial procedure in 1978, cochlear implants have given the gift of hearing to more than 320,000 profoundly deaf people worldwide.

Inner ear model

3. Cervical cancer vaccine

Queensland professor, Ian Frazer, created four vaccines for the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer, which affects half a million women annually. It took Prof Frazer and his colleagues more than 15 years to develop the world first vaccine, which protects against 70% of cervical cancer caused by the human papilloma virus.


4. Cause of sudden infant death syndrome

Today it is widely known the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) greatly increases if a baby sleeps face down. This discovery is thanks to the meticulous research carried out by South Australian doctor Susan Beal, who visited 500 families who had lost babies to cot death. Through public education, the rate of SIDS in Australia has now plummeted by more than 85% since 1989.

Sleeping Baby

5. Heart in a Box transplant

In 2014 the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and St Vincent’s Hospital made history when a surgical team successfully transplanted the first heart that had stopped beating. The heart was reanimated using a unique preservation solution and a portable machine known as the 'Heart in a Box' (pictured). This major medical breakthrough is expected to increase the number of heart transplants by as much as 30%.

Heart in a box
Acknowledgement of Country

The Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present.

Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute - The Home of Heart Research for 30 Years