When organisations, countries or individuals don’t grow and change, they stagnate, decline and eventually die. Here are some amazing inventions that have helped us all. And they’re all inventions made by women.
- Some of the telecommunications technology developed by physicist Dr Shirley Jackson in the 1980s and 1990s include the portable fax machine, the touch tone telephone, solar cells, fibre optic cables and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. Dr Jackson is currently president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university and one of the top 50 universities in the United States.
- Marie Van Brittan Brown invented closed-circuit television security (CCTV) in 1969 to help people ensure their own security and to counter the slow response of police officers; this invention influenced modern CCTV systems used for home security and police work today.
- In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek invented kevlar, the life-saving material that is more than five times stronger than steel and used, for example, in bulletproof vests and as a replacement for steel in racing tyres.
- Residential solar heating, invented by Dr Maria Telkes in 1947; Dr Telkes was a psychiatrist as well as a solar-power pioneer.
- Hedy Lamarr (the world famous film star) and co-inventor George Anthiel invented a secret, wireless transmission technology, patented in 1941; it was used during World War II for radio-controlling torpedoes and paved the way for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS.
- Dr Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist, invented COBOL, the first user-friendly business computer software system, in 1940. She was also a rear admiral in the US Navy and the first person to use the term ‘bug’ to refer to a glitch in a computer system – she literally found a bug (a moth) causing problems with her computer.
- Alice Parker invented a gas powered central heater in 1919, the first to use natural gas to heat a home; it was never manufactured but it did inspire today’s central heating systems.
- The modern electric refrigerator was invented by Florence Parpart in 1914; she also created an improved street cleaning machine.
- Elizabeth Magie invented a game she called the Landlord’s Game in 1904 to expose the injustices of unchecked capitalism. Charles Darrow saw the game and sold it as his own invention to Parker Brothers 30 years later, who called it Monopoly. Parker Brothers later paid Elizabeth $500 for her game.
- The medical syringe that could be operated with only one hand was invented by Letitia Geer in 1899.
- Margaret E Wilcox invented and patented the car heater in 1893; she also invented a combined clothes and dishwasher (which goes to show that not all inventions take off).
- The fire escape was invented and patented by Anna Connelly in 1887.
- Josephine Cochrane invented the dishwasher in 1887; she even marketed it to hotel owners and opened her own factory (without the help of a man!)
- The life raft was invented by Maria Beasley in 1882; she also invented a barrel-making machine that made her very rich.
- The machine that makes square-bottomed paper bags was invented by Margaret Knight in 1871; she almost didn’t get credit when Charles Anan tried to steal her work, claiming it wasn’t possible for a woman to create this brilliant invention. Margaret Knight also invented a safety device for cotton mills when she was 12 years old, an invention still used today.
- Nancy Johnson invented the ice cream maker in 1843; her patented design is still used today.
- The computer algorithm was invented by Ada Lovelace, who is essentially the first computer programer due to her work with Charles Babbage at the University of London in 1842; her notes were essential in helping Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computer in the 1940s.
And last but not least:
- Beer: According to Beer Historian Jane Peyton, Mesopotamian women were the first to develop, sell and drink beer!