Famous Women Inventors of the Modern Era
Anyone who's ever driven in a rain or snow storm can attest to the dire importance of windshield wipers. What a lot of people don't know is that windshield wipers were invented by a woman. Inventor Mary Anderson received a patent for her car-window cleaning device in 1903.
Established by the IPO Education Foundation, the National Inventor of the Year Award was created in 1974, but it wasn't until five years later that an individual female inventor would take home the prize. That woman: Barbara Askins.
Imagine a building material that is indestructible, fire-proof and non-toxic. Sounds like something you'd find in a work of science fiction, but actually it's a very-real invention called Geobond®, designed by female inventor Patricia Billings.
Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1917, inventor Marion Donovan was instilled with an inventive spirit at a young age. She spent the greater part of her childhood hanging around the manufacturing plant run by her father and uncle, two men who combined to invent, among other things, an industrial lathe for grinding automobile gears and gun barrels.
In the modern world, there is an unfortunate tendency to value profit over intellect. People may know a practice is harmful, but continue to do it anyway because it produces an in-demand product. Fortunately, there are inventors who work persistently to develop more responsible solutions. Sally Fox is one such individual.
Bette Nesmith Graham
As electric typewriters came into widespread use after World War II, Bette Nesmith Graham and countless other secretaries let out a collective groan. The new machines did make typing easier, but their carbon-film ribbons made it impossible to correct mistakes neatly with a pencil eraser. As a result of this predicament, Graham ended up inventing one of the most widely used office products of the 20th century.
Dr. Temple Grandin
The thing that usually amazes people most about prolific woman inventor Dr. Temple Grandin is not all the great strides she has made to improve animal-handling devices, nor the fact that she earned a Ph.D in animal science and became a world-renowned teacher and speaker. Instead, what usually amazes people most about Dr. Temple Grandin is that she accomplished all this while living with autism.
Perhaps one of the most famous toys in American history, the Barbie doll is a staple in the toy chests of little girls everywhere. Along with co-founding the renowned toy company Mattel, woman inventor Ruth Handler also designed the doll that would become an American cultural icon.
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Murray Hopper was a curious child. At the age of seven, she dismantled her alarm clock to figure out how it worked, but was unable to reassemble it. By the time her mother figured out what she had been up to, the young female inventor had gone through seven clocks in the house.
Mary Phelps Jacob
Imagine putting on an excruciatingly tight vest stiffened with whalebones and steel rods that poke into your torso, holding your upper body in an unnatural, agonizing position. Does this sound like some kind of medieval torture device? Not quite. In the early part of the 20th century, women's undergarments were barbarous, awkward and very unhealthy for the wearer.
For many women inventors in years past, the invention process was twice as difficult because, in addition to the hardships of inventing, they also faced the skepticism of a world that didn't believe women could create something of value. Fortunately, over the years, that perception has been blown out of the water by women inventors like Margaret E. Knight, who were willing to fight for the accolades and recognition they unquestionably deserved.
Stephanie Kwolek wanted to study medicine while growing up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, and that desire persisted as she worked toward her B.A. in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. After finishing her degree, however, Kwolek took a temporary research position with DuPont, where her work turned out to be so interesting that she decided to stay on - a decision that lead to her becoming one of the century's most famous women inventors.
Although better known for her Silver Screen exploits, Austrian actress Hedy Lamarr (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) also became a pioneer in the field of wireless communications following her emigration to the United States. The international beauty icon, along with co-inventor George Anthiel, developed a "Secret Communications System" to help combat the Nazis in World War II.
As a Peace Corps nurse during the 1960s in Togo, West Africa, Ann Moore saw African mothers do something that she found very interesting: they carried their babies in fabric slings tied securely on their backs. Moore liked the closeness between babies and their mothers when carried in this way. This famous woman inventor observed how the babies seemed so calm because they felt secure and near to their mothers.
African-American women played an integral part in the development of hair-care products in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. While Madame C.J. Walker and Marjorie Joyner are two of the most famous women inventors in this respect, another inventor – Lyda Newman – also played an important role.
As inventor Patsy Sherman can attest, innovation is often triggered by an unexpected or seemingly trivial occurrence. Hired as a research chemist by 3M Company in 1952, Sherman became one of only a tiny handful of women in the field. She was assigned to work on fluorochemicals, where she and her colleague, Sam Smith, were charged with developing a new kind of rubber for jet aircraft fuel lines.
Dr. Giuliana Tesoro
Did you know that there was a woman inventor who obtained more than one hundred and twenty-five patents? Her name was Giuliana Tesoro, and she helped to make great strides in the field of fiber and textile chemistry.
Chocolate chip cookies are a favorite treat for people of all ages, but without Ruth Wakefield, the world might never have tasted those sweet delights. Born in 1905, Wakefield grew up to be a dietician and food lecturer after graduating from the Framingham State Normal School Department of Household Arts in 1924.
In the mid-1980s, a twelve-year old girl developed an invention that greatly helped people who have difficulty communicating. Rachel Zimmerman of Ontario, Canada created a software program using Blissymbols: symbols that enable non-speaking people, such as those with severe physical disabilities like cerebral palsy, to communicate.