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From: "Peter McCrae" <>
Subject: [NZ-OBITS] MURDOCK: Colin Albert Murdoch 2008
Date: Sun, 22 Jun 2008 20:28:38 +0100

Colin Murdoch
Last Updated: 11:26PM BST 13/06/2008


Pharmacist who patented 46 inventions, including a plastic disposable
hypodermic syringe and a tranquilliser gun

Murdoch: he developed a range of rifles, pistols and darts which could be
used in the treatment of animals
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.

Although a pharmacist by profession, and one who throughout his life worked
in his native New Zealand, Murdoch was always interested in looking for
practical solutions to problems he encountered, and inventing became his
real passion. 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.

Colin Albert Murdoch was born in Christchurch, on February 6 1929, the son
of a pharmacist. His progress at school was impeded by dyslexia, but he was
technically proficient and showed a talent for chemistry. Aged 10 he worked
out how to make and set off gunpowder. He also constructed a firearm using a
wick and a small asbestos-filled hammer, and with this contraption spent
many happy hours hunting rabbits and hares.

By the time he was 13 Colin was driving a Morris Oxford Tourer - despite his
age, and his lack of a licence, the authorities did not intervene; and at
the same age he received a Royal Humane Society Medal for saving a drowning
man in the New Brighton estuary.

Despite his learning difficulties, he was accepted to study at the College
of Pharmacy in Wellington, then served a five-year apprenticeship before
following in his father's footsteps as a pharmacist. He had always loved
animals, and he was to take an interest in veterinary medicine.

Early in his career Murdoch became concerned about the high risk of
transmitting infection through the repeated use of hypodermic syringes, then
made of glass and requiring effective sterilisation.

"Dangerous bacteria and viruses," he recalled in later life, "were
transferred from one patient to another by doctors who used improperly
sterilised re-usable glass hypodermic syringes and needles to inject other
patients. It is impossible to comprehend the catastrophic consequences of
this situation if such practices were still occurring today...

Instead of now having to care for, and contain, the several million infected
people throughout the world who have Aids, the numbers could well be 30 or
40 per cent of the entire population." Murdoch came up with the idea of a
plastic, disposable, pre-filled vaccination syringe, which he took to New
Zealand's department of health.

Officials there rejected it as "too futuristic", but in 1956 he was granted
a patent and over the next 15 years he invented numerous versions of the
product. His disposable automatic vaccinator syringe was marketed worldwide
through an Australian company, Tasman Vaccine, which in 1975 won the
Governor-General's Export Award.

It was while studying wild goat and antelope which had been introduced into
New Zealand that it occurred to Murdoch that it would be easier to catch
animals if they could be temporarily immobilised by a tranquilliser
administered from a distance.

The result was his tranquilliser gun, which he invented in 1959. During the
Second World War he had gained experience in the repair and modification of
weapons, as rifles and shotguns could not at that time be imported into New

Murdoch designed a small valve that controlled compressed gas in the chamber
of the weapon, allowing control of the velocity of the tranquilliser dart.
He also developed a range of rifles, pistols and darts which could be used
in the treatment of animals, and established his own company, Paxarms (a
name signifying the conjunction of weapons with the notion of peace).

In the early stages the only tranquilliser drugs available were curare
(familiar to the Indians of South America) and the alkaloids of nicotine,
both of which often proved fatal to animals.

Murdoch worked with pharmaceutical companies to develop safer drugs. He also
discovered that the effects of stress and shock could be minimised by
administering a balanced electrolyte solution immediately after an animal
was immobilised, a practice that is now routine during surgery on infant and
elderly human patients.

In 1979 Murdoch's gun was used to immobilise a man in Auckland who had taken
his wife hostage.

In May 1966 Murdoch filed patents for a silent burglar alarm, a new
electrical wiring system and one for heat cells which would detect fire.
These devices were combined to form a silent burglar and fire alarm which
triggered an automatic telephone call to either (or both) the local police
station and fire station.

Murdoch won many awards, among them, in 1976, one at the World Inventors'
Fair in Brussels for his design of a childproof bottle top. This device
required a digital strength and technique that was beyond a child's

Murdoch never became a rich man. He declined to pursue through the courts
those who violated his patents, taking the view that if the products were
benefiting humans and animals it would be wrong to sue. He also pointed out:
"Patents give you the right to sue. They don't give you the money to sue. It
just costs too much."

In 2000 he was appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Colin Murdoch, who died on May 4, is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and by
their four children.

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