For World IP Day 2018 we are celebrating the brilliant creativity and imagination of women who have helped change history and the world as we know it today.
We are fortunate to live in a comfortable and convenient world full of big and small innovations, we are now so dependent on new inventions that we have high expectations of new technologies that will make our lives easier. But somebody had to make it all possible, and not all great inventors are men in white lab coats. We have all heard about the famous male inventors in history like James Dyson, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Graham Bell amongst others. Less well known are the many women inventors in history who have made spectacular contributions in the field of science and technology and made our lives better.
In honour of the remarkable women whose breakthroughs have advanced technology and improved our day to day lives, we are sharing the stories of 5 ingenious women whose inventions have changed the world.
One winter's day in 1903, Mary Anderson was visiting New York City when she noticed that her chauffeur was forced to open his window to the clear the snow from his windscreen and every time the window was open, the passengers in the car got colder.
Mary started drawing her solution of a rubber blade that could be moved from inside the car and in 1903 was awarded a patent for her device. The invention proved unsuccessful with car companies, who believed it would distract drivers.
Mary was ahead of her time; in the early 20th century many cars didn’t go fast enough to even need windshields, and outside major cities few people even owned cars. Mary Anderson never benefitted financially from her invention, even when the wipers later became standard on cars!
The first automatic windshield wipers were also invented by a woman, Charlotte Bridgwood, who filed a patent for her invention in 1917. Her invention, like Mary’s, was not a commercial success.
It was Emily Canham from Highbury, north London, who in 1908 first addressed the issue of blinding light from oncoming car headlights and went on to invent the dipped headlight. To lessen the glare she suggested dividing the lenses into zones. Over the top half of the lens would be placed opaque glass or coloured transparent material. The bottom half would be the only one emitting pure, bright light.
Lord Byron's daughter Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and scientist and the world's first computer programmer. In the 1840s Ada Lovelace joined forces with Charles Babbage who invented an analytical engine that is generally claimed to be the first computer. In 1843 at the age of 27, Ada Lovelace proposed to Charles Babbage that she should work out a language for the engine based on her knowledge of mathematics.
This is now considered to be the first computer program!
The software developed by the US department of defence was named Ada in her honour. She predicted that this machine would compose music, produce graphics, and could be used for both practical and scientific use. She was clearly a woman ahead of her time. So much so that it took 100 years before anyone else understood it so well.
Sarah Guppy was an extraordinary woman who put her inventive mind to both domestic and technical use. Besides her creative combined coffee maker, egg boiler and toast warmer, she created a four-poster bed with drawers that doubled as steps and a suspension bar that doubled as a gym!
In 1811 Sarah patented a method to make the piling safe for a suspension bridge. This was seven years before Thomas Telford started work on the suspension bridge over the Menai strait. It is not reported whether Sarah’s invention was ever put into practice and she was not accredited with any of this in histories of engineering and bridge building. But she didn’t stop there; Sarah then applied for a patent in 1844 for caulking (weatherproofing) ships.
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.
One of the first women research chemists, she first gained national recognition in 1960 for her work with long molecule chains at low temperatures. In 1971, Kwolek's further analysis culminated in an important discovery of a liquid crystalline polymer solution. Its exceptional strength and stiffness led to the invention of Kevlar®, a synthetic material that is five times as strong as steel.
Kevlar® is resistant to wear, corrosion and flames, and it is the main ingredient in the production of bulletproof vests. Furthermore, Kevlar® is used in dozens of other products, including skis, safety helmets, hiking and camping gear, and suspension bridge cables. Kwolek's research efforts have resulted in her being the recipient or co-recipient of 17 U.S. patents. This noted woman inventor also has received such prestigious accolades as the Kilby Award, the National Medal of Technology and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award.
This year’s World Intellectual Property Day celebration is an opportunity to highlight how the intellectual property (IP) system can support pioneering and innovative women in their pursuit to bring their amazing ideas to market. These are just a few remarkable women from the UK who made their mark in history and invented some pretty ingenious creations. Their outstanding successes are an instrumental legacy for young girls today with ambitions to become the inventors and creators of tomorrow. If you’d like to teach, learn or create yourself, check out our lesson plans & resources to ensure that you get the credit you deserve!