A circular saw, car screen wipers, a gas furnace and other things invented by the light female touch.
Who would have thought that a woman invented a circular saw or an airplane silencer! These things sound so…manly. It’s even more amazing to learn that these clever inventors were not engineers or scientists. In fact, many of them just wanted to simplify their daily life.
Tabitha Babbitt – inventor of a circular saw
Tabitha Babbitt born in 1779 is purported to be an inventor of a circular saw as well as other tools. Growing up in rural Massachusetts, she was a member of the Harvard Shaker community.
She observed the hard efforts of men cutting timber with a traditional whipsaw at a local saw mill and came up with unique suggestions. She proposed creating a round blade to increase efficiency. The circular saw was connected to a water-powered machine.
Unfortunately, Tabitha Babbitt never patented her invention.
Ada Lovelace – the first computer programmer
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace born in 1815 was British mathematician, who is regarded as a first computer programmer. Her brilliant education and social scene brought her in contact with inspirational minds of the time. One of them was Charles Babbage. His personal invention of Analytical Engine is widely regarded as a precursor of a modern computer.
Building upon the possibilities that Analytical Engine presented, Ada was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation. And so, Ada Lovelace came up with and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.
Oh, and she was the celebrated poet Lord Byron’s daughter.
Josephine Cochrane – inventor of an automatic dishwasher
Josephine Cochrane born in 1839 was an an inventor and manufacturer of the first commercially successful automatic dishwasher. The story goes that Miss Cochrane got fed up of doing dishes by hand. So she set off to design and patented a new invention. She soon partnered with a mechanic to create a prototype of a dishwasher and put it in production.
Later, and after Josephine’s death, KitchenAid Acquired Cochran’s Crescent Washing Machine company. In 1949 the prominent household brand used Josephine’s design to introduce their first dishwasher to public.
Mary Anderson – inventor of a windscreen wiper
Mary Anderson born in 1866 in Alabama. She wasn’t an engineer, but definitely an entrepreneur.
On her trip to New York she observed how a trolleybus driver struggled to see though his as he drove through sleet and snow. At the time drivers just accepted the inconvenience. It was common to just lean out of the vehicle to wipe the screen with their hand.
On her return home, Mary hired a designer for a hand-operated device to keep a windshield clear. Soon a local company produce a working model for her. She patented it 1903 for 17 years. Unfortunately her invention was too early and patent terms not long enough. Henry Ford’d Model A was not even manufactured and cars did not start taking over the cities. By 1920 Mary Anderson’s patent has expired.
Yet, in 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to adopt windshield wipers. They used Anderson’s basic design as a standard equipment.
Eldorado Jones – inventor of an airplane exhaust muffler
Eldorado Jones was born in 1860 in America. Her talent and interest in working with metal led her to coming up with several unique ideas. But her airplane exhaust muffler was potentially the most significant of her many inventions. According to The New York Times, her personal life, her “energy, (…) self-reliance, and her general distrust of men” pushed her to open an all-women factory in Illinois, dedicated to manufacturing her inventions.
Unfortunately, at the same time, her unhidden attitude towards men pushed potential investors away.
Despite her best efforts, her manufacturing business did not bring her a great success and she died in poverty. Some said, it was partly because of her “dim view of the opposite sex” which made it harder to capitalize on the accepted success of the muffler.
Alice H. Parker – inventor of a gas furnace
Alice H. Parker born in 1895 was an African American inventor known for her patent for a gas furnace. Some say that it is thanks to Alice’s invention our houses and apartment blocks have the modern central heating systems.
While studying for her University degree, it was her ineffective coal fireplace that provided inspiration for her invention. She graduated from the University with honours in 1910. However, there is little more information about Alice, unfortunately.
Remarkably, her filing of the patent antedates both the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement. It wasn’t until 50 years later that many barriers for black women of her generation were removed.
Hedy LaMarr – put the foundations for the modern Wi-Fi
Hedy LaMarr – an Austrian born Hollywood star. In 1941 together with George Antheil she invented and patented the frequency-hopping technology. Their war-time invention for radio communications to ‘hop’ from one frequency to another allowed Allied’ torpedoes go undetected by the Nazis.
Unbelievably, modern secure Wi-Fi system, GPS and Bluetooth – all are using exactly this technology now.
The U.S. military has publicly acknowledged Hedy LaMarr’s frequency-hopping patent and contribution to technology. However to this day, neither LaMarr nor her estate have seen any financial reward from the multi-billion-dollar industry her idea paved the way for.