Inventors and inventions (New Zealand)
Where can I find information about New Zealand inventors and their inventions?
Image: Richard Pearse's Fantastic Flying Machine from Archives NZ on Flickr.
Entry last updated: 30/07/21
People who create original things from scratch or add something new to an existing creation are known as inventors. Jetboats, electric fences and disposable syringes are just a few of the many things that have been invented by New Zealanders. This entry will give you examples of some New Zealand inventors and their inventions, as well as pointers on where to find information on this topic.
Famous inventors and inventions
Here is a list of some New Zealand inventors and their inventions. Some inventors or inventions have official websites like the ones below in blue - official sites are good places to start looking for facts and information about particular inventors.
AJ Hackett : Made bungy jumping famous and founded the first commercial bungy site.
Alan Gibbs: Known for developing the Gibbs Aquada, a high-speed vehicle that can be used on land and water.
Bill Gallagher : Known for inventing the electric fence.
Bill Hamilton : Developed the modern jetboat.
Colin Murdoch: Known for inventing the tranquilliser gun and disposable syringe.
Glenn Martin: Invented the Martin Jetpack.
Godfrey Bowen: Developed an efficient sheep shearing technique which is now used worldwide.
Ian Taylor: (Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngā Puhi) Founder of a computer animation company that developed real time graphics for TV and virtual reality products to help treat sick children.
John Britten : Invented the Britten motorbike.
Keith Alexander: Known for designing the spring-free trampoline.
Len Light: Invented the EasiYo home yoghurt making kit.
Morton Coutts: Developed the continuous fermentation system.
Norma McCulloch: This UK born New Zealander invented the Breath of Life Resuscitator for use in CPR.
Peter Beck : Founder of Rocket Lab, a company that builds and launches satellites from their launch sites in New Zealand and the United States.
Peter Lynn: Known for inventing the portable saw-mill, kite surfing, the kite buggy, the ‘Peel’ stick-less traction kite and the bridle-less ram-air-inflated traction kite.
Richard Pearse: Known for inventing the first powered flying machine.
Stephen Smythe: Invented the reusable envelope.
Remember, this list only mentions some New Zealand inventors and inventions. You can find others by searching the websites recommended below.
Here are some good websites to find out more about New Zealand inventors and inventions.
Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa.
- Find the section called Economy and the City.
- Then go to Manufacturing and Building to find Inventors, patents and trademarks.
- Read through the different pages to find out about different inventions, the no.8 wire tradition, and patents and trademarks.
- You could also enter the name of a particular inventor or invention into the search bar.
Tips: Many web pages have links to further information or to other recommended sites. Following these links is a great way to find out more.
This website has information about lots of celebrated New Zealand inventors and creators.
- Go to the Legends tab at the top of the page.
- Choose Originators on the left-hand side of the page.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
DigitalNZ is a search site that focuses on New Zealand history and brings together results from lots of different reliable websites. The results are grouped by the type of information, like images, videos, newspapers, articles and research papers.
- Search for the person you are looking for, like 'Peter Beck'.
- Choose the type of results you want to look at, for example Videos.
This is another great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
- Search using the name of the inventor or invention.
- If you don't know what inventor or invention you want to research, enter the keyword 'invention' in the search box. This will bring up every article with the word 'invention', 'inventions', 'inventive' or 'invented' in it.
- Look through the results until you find one that interests you eg jandal. You'll need to read the article carefully to make sure it is a New Zealand invention.
- You could also search using the keyword 'patent'. Read the resource below for more about patents.
This website contains information about patent material. A patent recognises an invention and gives exclusive rights to the inventor, but must meet certain criteria before it's accepted.
To learn more about patents and how they work:
- Look down the homepage to the section called Other Registered IP Types .
- Select the word Patents to open the Patents section.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.
EPIC is a collection of reliable databases covering lots of different topics. It’s put together especially for New Zealand school students and helps to answer questions like this. You may need a password from your school or local library to access it.
This resource has lots of New Zealand magazine, journal and newspaper articles. It's a great place to find news about local New Zealand inventors and inventions.
- You can do a general search for 'inventors' or 'inventions', or try a particular name or invention to see what has been written about it.
- You can also try a search for kiwi ingenuity, a phrase used to describe innovative ideas that come from New Zealand.
- Use the Refine Results tools on the left of the page to get less results eg use the Publication Date slider to choose results from 2011 to 2021, and tick the box Newspapers (domestic) under the heading Source Types to limit your results to New Zealand papers.
The New Zealand version of the Geographic magazine has in-depth articles about some New Zealand inventors, it also has great photos.
- Enter the name of the inventor you're looking for.
- There are articles about John Britten, Bill Hamilton and Richard Pearse among others.
- Most articles include lots of pictures, facts and background information.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you may need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6 pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.
There are a number of books that have been written about New Zealand inventors and inventions. Check out your local public or school library to see what they have there.
Here are a few recommended titles:
- All about New Zealand machines and inventions by Dave Gunson
- Four great New Zealand inventors by Keith Tonkin
- The Ballad of Bill Hamilton by Tony Kean
- John Britten : the boy who did better by Jennifer Beck
- 101 ingenious Kiwis : how New Zealanders changed the world by Tony Williams.
SCIS no: 1832635