What would the world be without GPS or WiFi? Without some of the women on this list, the world could be a more dangerous place. Less safe. Less interesting. Your eye-glasses (if you wear glasses) could have been blurry, less clear than they are now. Movies wouldn’t look the same. Between 1790 and 1984, only 1.5% of the patents created came from women. Today, that number has jumped to 20%. In a world filled with men, these are the inventions which stand out the most. They’re not things you would associate with women.
Inventions are fascinating. They come about after many years, decades, or centuries of evolution. For instance, Anna Connelly was a woman inventor. She invented a fire escape. But it was nowhere near the external-staircase fire escapes we use today. Around then, many people invented fire escapes which actually look like our modern day ones.
But the women on this list made remarkable contributions to the world of technology. And their lives outside of science were often just as remarkable. Not only were they expert scientists, they were pioneers; they first of their kind. More times than not, they were immediately recognized for their contributions to the world. Sometimes they had to fight.
Without these inventions, the world would have been different from what it is now. These are 10 Brilliant Things Invented By Women That Changed The World.
10 A Woman Invents Paper Bags
Margaret Knight, dubbed “Lady Edison,” was a prolific inventor. She received anywhere from 27 to 87 U.S. patents. When she was 12 years old, she had an idea for a stop-motion device, one that could shut off machinery in factories, preventing workers from getting injured. Because she was young and poor, she didn’t have many resources to compete in the patent business. At age 30, Knight had to fight for her first patent (the paper bag), after having the idea stolen from her.
Knight’s inventions include a safety device for textile looms, an internal combustion engine, the machine that manufactures paper shopping bags - the same shopping bags we use today! All were patented between 1902 and 1915. She received the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour by Queen Victoria in 1871 and became part of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
9 A Woman Invents Invisible Glass
Katharine Blodgett completed a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1918. She became the first woman scientist hired at the General Electric research lab. Shortly after, she went back to school where Blodgett became the first woman awarded a PhD in physics in 1926. Shortly after receiving her master’s degree, she was immediately hired again by General Electric. Within five years, she devised a method for spreading mono-molecular coatings to glass. Blodgett used this technique to create glass that was more than 99% "transmissive." She created “invisible” glass, which allowed 99% of light to pass through and no light reflections. The glass was first used in Hollywood cinematography in 1939. It became immediately noted for its crystal-clear appearance. Later, scientists perfected Katharine Blodgett's glass-making methods. Today the glass has many applications. It is often used in telescopes, camera lenses, automobile windows, eyeglasses, and picture frames.
8 A Woman Invents Beer
We don’t know who invented the first formula for beer. But women were the first brewers, servers, and sellers of alcohol in society. Drinking beer at the local bar has origins with all signs pointing to women. Since the dawn of man, women were definitely brewing and selling a lot of beer. For thousands of years, we knew them as “brewsters” or “ale-wives.” This dates far back, 7,000 years ago, to ancient Mesopotamian and Sumerian civilizations. Brewers held the only profession deriving social sanction and divine protection from female goddesses - Ninkasi, Siris, and Siduri to be exact.
By law, women were the exclusive brewers in Norse society. And again in ancient Finland. In England, woman made beer in their homes by tradition. And the sale of alcohol was a great source of income for many households. Only in the late 18th century did gender-neutral methods for brewing beer come about.
7 A Woman Invents The Circular Saw
Shakers were an 18th century religious sec; a firm institution within their community was “equality of the sexes.” Tabitha Babbitt was among the first few people credited for designing the circular saw. Two other Shakers were also rumored as inventors of the saw. Babbitt is also credited with inventing spinning wheel heads and false teeth, as well as speeding up cut-nail production - the same nails we buy at Home Depot today.
Babbitt's idea came about after watching men use the difficult two-man whipsaw, coming to realize that they wasted half of their motion. Babbitt's circular saw was first used in a saw mill in 1813. Yet, being a religious Shaker, she did not patent any of her inventions. Three years later, two French men patented the circular saw after discovering the design in the Shaker papers.
6 A Woman Invents Monopoly
Two designers have the credit for inventing Monopoly - Charles Darrow and Elizabeth Magie. At the time, Magie was a writer, comedian, actress, and an engineer. Monopoly was at first used for educational purposes, a way to show the economic consequences and ill effects of land monopolies and prove the value of an economy that rewards wealth creation. In the beginning, the game was also used to promote women’s rights.
The game’s original title was “The Landlord’s Game.” It was first patented in 1904, but Monopoly existed as early as 1902. It was one of the first board games to use a “continuous path,” a board designed without well-defined start and end spaces. The game soon spread by word of mouth. And professors used it on university campuses as a teaching tool. By 1933, Monopoly was near full evolution and looked much like the Monopoly we know and love today.
5 A Woman Invents Solar Heating Systems
Mária Telkes was a pioneering scientist who worked on solar energy technologies. She was one of the founders of solar thermal storage systems. She designed the first solar heating system, which was utilized on the Dover Sun House. This was the first of the many solar panels we see on the roofs of homes and businesses today. The system used solar power to generate heating inside the home. Dr. Anthony Nemethy, a cousin of Mária Telkes, occupied the house with his family, living in the home for three years before the system failed.
Telkes also invented many other thermal devices, including a unit for lifeboats. The device made fresh water from seawater with solar power. Her role in solar innovations earned her the nickname “sun queen.” And in the 1970s, she consulted with many start-up solar companies. The American Solar Energy Society recognized her in 1977, giving her the Charles Greeley Abbot Award.
4 A Woman Invents Wireless Technology
Once named “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Hedy Lamarr was a famous and fortunate Hollywood actress. She married the third richest man in Austria, Friedrich Mandl, in 1933. She was also intelligent. While Hedy and Friedrich attended prestigious business meetings, she learned about applied science. Bored of acting, she decided to help in the war effort.
During World War II, German submarines began to torpedo passenger ships. Hedy said “I’ve got to invent something that will put a stop to that.” So she developed “spread spectrum” and “frequency hopping” technology. She obtained a patent in 1942. The U.S. Navy adopted the technology in 1962. And the U.S. military used it during a blockade of Cuba. The principles of her work now serve as the basis for many modern technologies, including GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. She joined the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
3 A Woman Invents Computer Programming Language
Grace Hopper was a leader and innovator of computer programming language. "Programming language" is the basic building block for computer software, allowing humans to tell computers what to do. Grace Hopper worked as a programmer on the first computer, specifically the Harvard Mark 1 in 1944. She led the way in the field of software development concepts, making massive contributions in the shift from primitive to advanced computing technologies. She advocated the idea of a machine-independent programming language. Her development, COBOL, was one of the first high-level computer programming languages.
She also popularized the term “computer bug” or “debugging” for fixing computer glitches.
2 A Woman Invents Kevlar (Bulletproof Vests)
Stephanie Kwolek was a chemist at DuPont for over 40 years. She developed the synthetic fiber Kevlar in 1965. Kevlar is five times stronger than steel. This super amazing fiber has over 200 useful applications. Today, it’s used as military personal armor like combat helmets, ballistic face masks, and bulletproof vests. Fire fighters, police officers, and SWAT teams use Kevlar everyday. It's lighter and thinner than equal gear made of traditional materials.
It’s also used in music because it has useful acoustic properties. The cables on some suspension bridges are Kevlar. It's also found within stadium roofs and smartphones. The Georgia Institute of Technology believes ii could generate electricity in the future. Kwolek is the only female employee of DuPont awarded the Lavoisier Medal for outstanding technical achievement. In 1995, she became the fourth woman added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
1 A Woman Invents The Dishwasher
Josephine Cochran was wealthy and entertained at home often. But after-party clean up was a mess. Servants had an enormous load of dishes to do. In 1850, Joel Houghton designed a hand-cranked dishwasher. L. A. Alexander improved it with a gear mechanism. But both devices sucked. When Josephine’s husband William died, she became motivated to finish her design. She wanted to develop a dish washing machine that actually got the job done.
Josephine designed her dishwasher in a shed behind her house with an assisting mechanic. She designed separate compartments for plates, cups, and saucers. And her design was the first to use water pressure. Josephine patented the “First Practical Dish Washing Machine” in 1886. Later, she won first prize for “best mechanical construction, durability and adaption.” By word of mouth, she started getting orders from restaurants and hotels. A factory opened 10 years after her first patent.