Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wonder Women, Whom History Has Forgotten

There are so many little things that make our life easier. We use them regularly but hardly wonder who might have made it for the first time. May it be the wind shield wiper or a car heater or may be the disposable diapers. So let us dig into this little, life changing inventions and into the names of their unsung inventors.
Mary Anderson

Have you ever heard of Mary Anderson? Yes, she is the one who invented wind shield wiper. Wondering about the car heater? It is Margaret Wilcox.

Have you ever read about these names in your school textbooks or any science literature? Most people will draw a blank when asked to name a woman inventor. At best, they might name Marie Curie. Ironically, even Marie Curie is mostly known for discovering radium and not for the radium-isolation technique she designed.

Women has always been hard at work, whether making chocolate chip cookies for the first time or creating alphabet blocks or designing the maiden disposable diapers or even inventing complicated scientific tools.
Letita Geer

The trivial yet useful mounted globes is patented by Ellen Fitz in 1875 while cooking stove was created by Elizabeth Hawk in 1867. The credit of inventing electric water heater goes to Ida Forbes in 1917 whereas invention of syringe that changed our lives and the medicine today goes to Letita Geer.

Harriet Strong is known as the primary inventor of dry land irrigation and water conservation techniques 1887. Conception of the idea of construction of dams and reservoirs was pioneered by her.
Harriet Strong

Submarine lamps and telescopes were invented by Sara Mather in 1885 and elevated railways by Mary Walton in 1881.

Woman has always unleashed their minds into useful creations but as we know history being His-Story has been unfair to her and recorded a very few of her geniuses.

Austrian actress Heddy Lamarr was also a pioneer in the field of wireless communications. She invented "spread spectrum technology" that helped to create an unbreakable code which prevented interception of messages by Nazi agents during World War II. Later, this technology formed the backbone of cellular technology and other wireless communication techniques.
Hedy Lamarr

Another example of the inventiveness of female mind is the invention of "Blissymbol Printer" by Rachel Zimmerman in the 1980s. This printer works through symbols on a touch pad, which are converted into written language thereby enabling communication by speech-impaired people.

Patricia Billings was a sculptor who ended up inventing an indestructible, fire-resistant, non-toxic material while she was trying to create a cement additive to prevent her sculptures from scattering. This material, patented as "Geobond", became the world's first workable replacement for asbestos.
Patricia Billings

Interestingly, the first woman inventor recorded in history is Sybilla Masters (1715) who was an American colonist. She developed a cleaning and curing technique for Indian corn crops which helped in processing corns into various food and clothing products. The patent was issued in her husband's name by the British Government.

Taking notice of Sybilla Masters, it brings to the fore, why history has recorded so few inventions by women. The reason might be the lack of legal rights given to women. Women could not claim ownership of property until late 1800s. Patent, which comes under the category of intellectual property, could not be issued to women. Low education among women and the prevalent socio-cultural beliefs during the period also denied to accept that a woman would be able to innovate and invent. So, most of the inventions and discoveries by women went in the names of their husbands, sons or fathers.

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