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Colin Murdoch


Colin Murdoch and a sedated water buffalo

Born a British subject in New Zealand in 1929, Colin Murdoch, who has died aged 79, was "a prolific inventor whose brainchilds included a plastic disposable hypodermic syringe, the tranquilliser gun, a silent burglar alarm and a childproof bottle top".

He was an active child, chasing after hares, mixing up gunpowder and rescuing a drowning man. Overcoming dyslexia he became a pharmacist and veterinarian, but he was always inventing. "It is said that he would wake in the middle of night from vivid dreams about three-dimensional drawings, and would then sit at his kitchen table working with a pencil and ruler until he had his idea properly worked out on paper. In all he patented 46 inventions."

The disposable syringe came about because he was concerned about transferring dangerous bacteria from one of his animal patients to another when reusing glass syringes. Always practical, he knew there was a solution. His first syringe was invented in 1956, and was followed by pre-filled and self-filling syringes, all medical delivery breakthroughs. Oddly the government health service dismissed the invention. Today millions of his syringes are used every day.

You have probably seen how a dose of tranquilliser can be administered by projection from afar to peaceably sedate an animal. Murdoch invented not only the guns and darts but the safe immobilizing drugs.


He discovered that Stress Syndrome and delayed shock effect could be counteracted by administering a balanced electrolyte solution immediately after an animal was immobilized. This practice is now routine in preventing shock during surgery for babies and elderly patients.

In 1966 he combined a silent burglar alarm, new electrical wiring system and heat detection cells in a revolutionary silent burglar and fire alarm. Too advanced to be put into use at the time, it is now one of the most popular security alarms.

He never attempted to protect his patents. First, as he observed, he didn't have enough money to protect inventions from copyright violation, and second he was happy they were being put to beneficial use. He had the satisfaction of knowing he had invented them.

Ave atque Vale.