Throughout my life I have been amazed by women's contributions to society albeit their lack of recognition for them in many cases. Here are some surprising and familiar inventions by women that have changed history.
We might as well start with computers. Grace Hopper and Howard Aiken were instrumental in designing the first five ton room sized machine in 1944 for Harvard. The Mark 1 was its name. Hopper also invented the compiler which translated written language into computer code. In 1959 she was part of a team that developed one of the first modern programming languages called COBOL.
Then there is the combination submarine telescope and lamp invented by Sarah Mather and patented in 1845.
In 1886 Josephine Cochrane patented the first dishwasher, a combination of high water pressure, a wheel, a boiler and a wire rack.
Next time you are cleaning your car windshield with its windshield wipers, remember two women, Mary Anderson inventor of the first manual windshield wipers in 1903 and Charlotte Bridgewood the automatic version with an electric roller in 1917.
Here's an innovation that was not solely done by a woman, signal flares for ships. Martha Coston found plans in a notebook that belonged to her late husband. As a determined widow, she spent 10 years working with chemists and pyrotechnics experts to make the idea a reality. Yet she was never given the credit- -her late husband was.
The circular saw was conceived by a Shaker woman, Tabitha Babbitt. Her prototype was attached to her spinning wheel in 1813. Although the Shaker community didn't approve of filing a patent, they took full advantage of the invention.
Hungarian biophysicist Marcia Telkes invented the thermo electric power generator to provide heat for Dover House, a wedge shaped structure she conceived with architect Eleanor Raymond. Telkes used Grauber's salt, the sodium salt of sulfuric acid, to store heat in preparation for sunless days--the first 100% solar house.
On a lighter note, alphabet blocks were patented in 1882 by Adeline DT Whitney and the game Monopoly, originally known as "The Landlord's game" was patented in 1904 by Elizabeth Maggie. Thirty years later, Charles Darrow refigured the board design and sold it to Parker Brother's as "Monopoly". The company bought Maggie's patent for the original $500 and no royalties! "Do not pass GO, do not collect $200!"
Even everyday useful items come from resourceful women. When cotton mill worker Margaret Knight invented a machine to make paper bags with a flat square bottom in 1868, a man named Charles Annan saw the design and tried to patent the idea first. But Knight was a feisty fighter and filed a lawsuit which she won in 1871!
Disposable diapers had their debut in 1951 by Marion Donovan who dubbed them 'waterproof Boaters". The original cover for the diaper was made with a shower curtain and first sold at Saks Fifth Avenue. A year later Marion created an entirely disposable diaper and sold the patent for $1 million.
When babies are born they are rated with an APGAR score. This acronym stands for "Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity" . The test was named after Dr. Virginia Apgar who tested newborns in 1952 at one minute and five minutes after birth to determine if they needed immediate care.
Secretary Bette Nesmith Graham secretly used white tempera paint to cover up her typing errors in the days before there was a delete key. Spending years perfecting the formula in her kitchen she received a patent in 1958 for Liquid Paper. Gillette bought her company in 1979 for 47.5 million. And that's no typo!
In 1952, 3m chemist Patsy Sherman spilled some fluorochemical rubber on a lab assistant's shoe and it wouldn't come off. She also observed it didn't change the color of the shoes and the stain repelled water, oil and other liquids. Co –inventor Samuel Smith and she called the substance Scotch Guard which preserves all kinds of fabrics today.
Also another chemist Stephanie Kwolek, working with Dupont, accidentally invented Kevlar while trying to perfect a lighter fiber for car tires. Lightweight, high tensile Kevlar-- five times stronger than steel will take a bullet for you. Kwolek earned a patent in 1966. New York City dog owner Mary A.Delaney patented the first retractable dog leash in 1908. The first African –American woman with a U.S. patent was Sarah E. Goode in 1885. Her folding cabinet bed didn't just maximize space in small homes it was a fully functional desk that could be folded into a bed.
General Electric's first female scientist Katherine Blodgett discovered a way to transfer thin monomolecular coatings to glass and metals in 1935. It was called invisible glass .The result was glass that eliminated glare and distortion, hence, revolutionizing cameras, microscopes, eye glasses and more.
Finally, Lillian Gilbreth is known for her improvement to existing inventions. In the early 1900s, she put a foot pedal on a trash can to make opening the lid easier. She and her husband Frank are famous for their work in efficiency management and ergonomics. Super thanks to the women who have impacted our lives!
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