Melbourne has a long list of world firsts to its name. And we’ve curated ten noteworthy achievements that many Melburnians might not know about.
- The first test cricket match
He steps up to the crease, swings the bat, and it’s a six! As Tim Paine leads the Aussie test cricket side in matches across the globe, this game was actually first played on Melbourne soil. A little after one in the afternoon on 15 March, 1877, the first Test match kicked off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) between England and Australia. The home team was captained by Dave Gregory who guided Australia to victory over four grueling days of play.
Fellow teammate Charles Bannerman scored the first-ever single in Test Cricket and went on to also score the first century in this long-format game; his tally of 165 runs in the first innings remains the highest score by a debut Australian Test batsman till today.
- The world’s first McCafe
The ‘Happy Meal’ definitely got a whole lot happier when McDonald’s opened the world’s first McCafe at Swanston Street in 1993. Everyone needs their morning shot of java and with Melbourne counted among the great coffee capitals of the world, there was no better place for McCafe’s maiden storefront.
Almost 30 years down the line, today, the McCafe brand is synonymous with McDonald’s in many countries across the globe. And we all can truly say, ‘I’m Lovin It’!
- Electric Drill
Doing a bit of home renovation or fancy hanging a picture on the wall? Chances are you’ll reach for the electric drill in your toolbox. The electric drill you use today exists solely due to the invention of Arthur James Arnot, the first electrical engineer for the Melbourne City Council.
Along with his colleague William Blanch Brain at the Union Electric Company in Melbourne, he patented the first-ever electric drill over 130 years ago on 20th August, 1889.
This creation wasn’t anything like the small, lightweight, hand-held devices we use currently though. It was conceived for operation in mining to penetrate through rock. Arnot also was instrumental in the formation of the Victorian Electric Light and Power Act of 1896.
Lights, camera, action! The clapperboard that is a filmmaking staple ‘round the world has its roots in Melbourne. The rudimentary version of this device as two sticks joined together to sound the ‘clap’ was created by film director Francis William Thring, who founded Efftee Studios in Melbourne. Thring is also the father of actor Frank Thring, famous for his Hollywood performances in Ben-Hur (1959) and The Vikings (1958).
- The world’s first feature-length film
The films we watch on Netflix or in movie theatres today have their humble origins in Melbourne. The first feature-length movie in the world told the tale of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly and was screened at the Athenaeum Hall on Collins Street in 1906. Titled ‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’, the film’s run-time was little over an hour.
- Eureka Tower – A series of records
Whoosh! The fastest elevators in the Southern Hemisphere will take you to the 88th floor of this iconic structure in a mere 38 seconds. This floor houses the Eureka Skydeck 88, the tallest observation deck south of the Equator, which offers a breathtaking view of the city below. This 297.3 m skyscraper was also the world’s tallest residential structure during the time of its completion in 2006. And if you think that the gold-coloured windows on the top ten floors are just for show, you’re mistaken. Those windows are decked out with 24 carat gold!
- Melbourne Zoo – Pioneering Experiences
Want to walk through a pride of lions? Well, the Melbourne Zoo offered visitors a chance to do just that with the inauguration of its Lion Park in 1967. Those with a taste for adventure could stroll through an elevated platform and marvel at the carnivores below. In fact, this was the world’s first ‘walk through’ zoo enclosure of its nature. However, the old structure was remodelled in 2014.
The Melbourne Zoo also has another feather in its cap – it is the oldest zoo on the continent.
- Black box flight recorder
This sturdy device – actually coloured orange, not black as its name suggests – has helped piece together the cause behind many aviation disasters and is mandatory on almost all flights today.
Dr David Warren, who worked at the Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL) of the Defence Science and Technology Group (part of the Australian Department of Defence) in Fisherman’s Bend, Melbourne, was inspired by a mini recorder he saw at a trade fair to create a device that recorded voice in a cockpit apart from just instrument data – to help understand the reasons behind aircraft crashes. And thus, the black box was born.
- Bionic ear
Advances in assistive technologies have aided people living with disabilities. One such major invention was the multi-channel cochlear implant (bionic ear) by Professor Graeme Clark, a Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne.
“The fact that my father was deaf was always an early driving force to help deaf people,” he says in a video on ABC News. From his early days in medicine, he harboured a creative streak within along with the urge for discovery.
And in 1978, he conducted the world’s first cochlear implant on Rod Saunders (who had been deaf for 18 months) at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. His invention has helped hundreds of thousands of people across the globe and has paved the way for an innovative field of research known as medical bionics.
- NGV – Home to the largest stained glass ceiling in the world and the first bronze cast of ‘The thinker’
Australia’s oldest art museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, is home to the largest stained glass ceiling on the planet. Measuring 15 metres by 51 metres, this creation by renowned Melbourne artist Leonard French offers visitors a dazzling play of light.
Enter NGV’s Great Hall and you can’t help but cast your eyes upward! The ceiling transports you into a vast galaxy of colour as the sunlight weaves its way through the differently-hued glass pieces.
The art museum also has the first bronze casting of a sculpture that is easily among the most recognizable in the world – Auguste Rodin’s ‘The thinker’ (Le Penseur).
Are you aware of any more of Melbourne’s great achievements? Let us know in the comment section below.