Throughout history, women inventors have worked as hard as their male counterparts at creating new, exciting, and useful products. From beer (which some historians claim was first brewed by Mesopotamian women, according to BuzzFeed), to the medical syringe, to the life raft, inventions by women can be found any and everywhere.
For starters, look around your kitchen—women invented both the dishwasher (Josephine Cochrane) and the modern refrigerator (Florence Parpart), not to mention the hand-cranked ice cream maker (Nancy M. Johnson).
Here are five more great women inventors, and the inventions they gave us.
- Melitta Bentz. We have this wonderful German woman to thank for modern coffee. Near the turn of the 20th century, Bentz created the filter system that coffeemakers use today—her version used thick paper and a pot with holes punched in it, allowing the coffee liquid to drip through the holes while the grounds stayed trapped in the paper. This was a huge improvement on the regular way of brewing coffee by simply boiling grounds. Keurig, Mr. Coffee, Cuisinart — they all owe their basic design to Bentz.
- Katherine Blodgett. The first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Physics at Cambridge University, Blodgett later became a researcher with General Electric in the 1940s. While she contributed research to many different projects, one of her most important inventions was non-reflective glass. Today that glass is used in everything from computer screens to eyeglasses and windshields.
- Grace Hopper. Hopper was a pioneer in computer science, working with Howard Aiken to invent the Mark 1 computer back in 1944. The computer took up a full room and weighed five tons. Later, Hopper worked with a team of researchers who developed one of the world’s first programming languages, COBOL. Hopper was also the first person to coin the term “bug” for a system disruption, although one can’t give her too much credit for creativity—there was an actual bug, a moth, stuck in the computer and causing it to malfunction. Hopper removed the moth, but the term bug stuck.
- Hedy Lamarr. An Austrian film star who emigrated to the United States, in the 1930s and ’40s Lamarr was famous the world over for her beauty. She also, however, co-invented technology to radio-steer a torpedo using technology called frequency hopping. The idea was to create a secret radio signal that couldn’t be intercepted, because it would hop from frequency to frequency. Although Lamarr secured a patent for the idea, when she showed it to the American Navy, they scoffed. Today, frequency hopping is used in all kind of wireless communication, from cordless phones to GPS. Lamarr, sadly, didn’t receive credit or acknowledgement until many years later, and she never received any profit.
- Ada Lovelace. The daughter of the legendary Romantic poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace is often called the first computer programmer. Lovelace had an incredibly sharp mathematical mind, and was raised to be a rational, scientific person by her mother, who feared she’d inherit her father’s wildly poetic tendencies. After her marriage in 1835, she met the mathematician Charles Babbage, who was working on designs for what was essentially an early computer (he called it the Analytical Engine). The two struck up a friendship and close working relationship, and Lovelace began studying advanced mathematics herself. Later, she was asked to translate an article on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, which she did—but in addition to the translation, she added her own notes and explanations, which were three times as long as the original article had been. The notes contain what scientists call early computer programs, as well as ideas for what the computer would eventually be used for, like creating music and coding both numbers and letters.
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