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Celebrate March with this short invention quiz          By Paul Niemann

[MARCH 10, 2005]  In order to make the Invention Mysteries column more interactive, we occasionally throw in a quiz. Studies have shown that more than half of newspaper readers are women. Guys, you might want to get your wives to help you on this one.

1. In 1871, who invented the machine that makes the square-bottom paper bags?

  1. Alexander Graham Bell
  2. Thomas Edison
  3. Margaret Knight

2. In 1886, who invented the first automatic dishwasher?

  1. Elijah McCoy, whose other invention became known as "The Real McCoy"
  2. Some guy whose last name was Maytag
  3. Josephine Cochran

3. In 1903, who invented windshield wipers?

  1. Henry Ford
  2. Robert Kearns (the same guy who invented intermittent windshield wipers)
  3. Mary Anderson

4. Who developed the computer language known as COBOL? This inventor was also an admiral in the Navy.

  1. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web
  2. Some guy whose last name was Cobol
  3. Grace Murray Hopper

5. Scotchgard® was invented in 1952 by which 3M employee?

  1. Art Fry, who also invented Post-It Notes
  2. Some guy whose last name was Scotch
  3. Patsy Sherman

6. Who invented Kevlar®?

  1. A celebrity who wanted to remain anonymous
  2. Some guy whose last name was Kevlar
  3. A du Pont chemical engineer named Stephanie Kwolek

If you got all six answers right, then you probably noticed a trend. Each of the correct answers is "c."

Here's one more for you …

The month of March is celebrated as…

  1. Spring Training History Month
  2. The Month That Comes After February Month
  3. Women's History Month

Once again, the correct answer is "c," and each of the answers to the first six questions is that of a female inventor. While their contributions are many, the women inventors don't always get the recognition they deserve.

[to top of second column in this article]

Here are a few of the little-known details about the above six inventors:

  • Margaret Knight was only 9 years old when she came up with her first invention -- a shuttle restraining device. The type of machine that made her square-bottom paper bags is still used today.
  • Mary Anderson, whose invention is standard equipment on nearly every car and truck in use today, never earned a profit from her windshield wiper invention.
  • Grace Murray Hopper coined the "computer bug" phrase when a moth got stuck in her computer processor and caused it to stop working.
  • Patsy Sherman and Stephanie Kwolek invented Scotchgard and Kevlar, respectively, by accident.
  • The company that Josephine Cochran founded to manufacture her dishwasher eventually became KitchenAid.

One last question… What do the following non-inventors have in common?

  • Philip Mountbatten
  • Denis Thatcher
  • Jim Dougherty
  • Arthur Miller
  • Guy Ritchie

Answer: They were all overshadowed by their wives.

Philip Mountbatten (aka Prince Philip) is the Greek-born husband of England's Queen Elizabeth; Denis Thatcher is the husband of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; Jim Dougherty was Marilyn Monroe's first husband, whom she wed when she was just 16; playwright Arthur Miller was Marilyn Monroe's third and final husband; and Guy Ritchie is the current husband of Madonna.

[Paul Niemann]

Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be reached at niemann7@aol.com.

© Copyright Paul Niemann 2005

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