It is an often forgotten fact that not all inventions through history were created by white men. While it is true that women were (and often still are) less likely to invent because they had less access to formal education and scientific tools, there are many female inventions that affected the way we live today. Today we share nine of these inventions and their inventors.
1.Computer software – Grace Hopper
Known as “Amazing Grace”, Grace Hopper joined the US Navy during the Second World War to work on a new computer called the Mark 1. By the 1950’s she was a fourth runner in the field of computer software. She invented the compiler that translates instructions into code. It made programming quicker and easier. She also helped popularise the term”debugging” which is still used today in programing after a real moth was removed from her machine.
2. Caller ID and call waiting – Dr Shirley Ann Jackson
Today, none of us needs to memorise phone numbers and we have Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson to thank for that. Jackson is an African American theoretical physicist, whose research from the 1970s enabled many inventions in the telecommunication field including the portable fax, fibre optic cables and solar cells. She is also responsible for the invention of caller ID and call waiting.
3. Stem cell isolation – Ann Tsukamoto
This invention may be more difficult to understand for many of us, but it could lead to a cure for cancer. Since her patent was awarded in 1991, Tsukamoto’s work has advanced scientists’ understanding of the blood systems of cancer patients. Tsukamoto is still conducting further research into stem cell growth.
4. Kevlar – Stephanie Kwolek
In 1966, chemist Stephanie Kwolek was trying to perfect a lighter fiber for car tires when she accidently invented a fiber which is used today in a range of products from household gloves and mobile phones to aeroplanes and suspension bridges. This material is five times stronger than steel and its use in bulletproof vests and body armour saves lives everyday.
5. The Apgar Score – Dr. Virginia Apgar
In 1952, obstetrical anesthesiologist Dr. Virginia Apgar invented a test for newborn babies to determine if they needed immediate care. The test is applied one minute and five minutes after the baby is born and is an acronym of the inventor’s name: Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration. The method is still commonly used today.
6. Retractable Dog Leash – Mary A. Delaney
An invention that is more commonly used by most of us, came from dog owner Mary A. Delaney in 1908. She invented a dog leash that was attached to the collar with a retractable leash, giving more freedom to dogs while still keeping them under control.
7. The Solar House – Maria Telkes
Today, we are moving more towards cleaner energy sources like solar energy. But in 1947, biophysicist Maria Telkes has already created the very first 100 percent solar house. She invented the thermoelectric power generator to provide heat for Dover House, a wedge-shaped structure she conceived with architect Eleanor Raymond. The Dover House survived nearly three winters before the system failed.
8. Dishwasher – Josephine Cochrane
It is not surprising that many inventions we use at the house like dishwashers, refrigerators and ice-cream makers were invented by women who were more likely to suffer from a lack of these inventions. Josephine Cochrane was one of these women. Cochrane was a frequent entertainer and she wanted a machine that would wash her dishes faster than her servants, and be less likely to break them.Her machine, which involved a motor turning a wheel inside a copper boiler, was the first automatic dishwasher to use water pressure.
9. Home Security System – Marie van Brittan Brown
Marie van Brittan Brown was a nurse who was often home alone. But she did not feel safe due to the rising crime rates and slow police responses in the 1960s. So she invented, together with her husband, the first home security system which is the basis for modern CCTV systems used today. It was a complicated device with a camera that moved up and down the door to look through a peephole. The camera then was attached to a monitor in Brown’s bedroom which also was equipped with an alarm button.
You can also read about the life of inventor and sex icon Hedy Lamarr here.