All were invented by
women. Their stories are below.
In addition, here are a few other important products that were
created by female inventors:
Some inventions are created as the result of a person simply
trying to solve a problem. That's what Mary Anderson of Alabama did
in 1903 when she invented windshield wipers. On a trip to New York
City, while touring the city on a streetcar, she noticed that the
motorman had to continually get out to wipe the snow and ice from
the windshield. The man had tried a variety of solutions to this
problem, but nothing had worked.
After making a quick drawing in her sketchbook, Mary came up with
a solution to the problem. Her solution, which would be patented a
year later, allowed the motorman to
sweep the snow and ice away with a device that was operated from
inside the car. This became the forerunner to the modern windshield
wiper. Even though wipers had become standard equipment on American
cars by 1913, Mary never profited from them.
The USS Hopper
Grace Murray Hopper developed COBOL, which stands for COmmon
Business Oriented Language, in 1959 while she was in the Navy, and
she was also the Navy's first female admiral. COBOL was more like
natural English than any previous computer language. It was also the
first programming language mandated by the Department of Defense for
its applications. In recognition of the developer's contributions,
the Navy named one of their destroyers in her honor, the USS Hopper.
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COBOL served as a foundation for later computer languages, and
it's likely that we wouldn't have the World Wide Web today if it
weren't for COBOL.
Another contribution that Grace Hopper made was the term
"computer bug." No, she didn't invent the bug, but she coined the
term. She did this after a computer processor had stopped working
due to a moth that was stuck in it.
Patsy Sherman accidentally created Scotchgard in 1952 while
working as a chemist for 3M in Minneapolis. Sherman's team had been
trying to develop a new kind of rubber for use in aircraft fuel
lines when an assistant in her chemistry lab accidentally dropped a
beaker full of a liquid rubber mixture onto the floor, splashing
onto Sherman's white canvas sneakers.
When they tried to wash it off, the water and solvents beaded up
and ran off the sneakers. Sherman and fellow chemist Sam Smith
realized that the mixture could be used to protect fabrics from
water and other fluids. After three years of work, the mixture was
patented and released as Scotchgard Protector™ in 1956.
In a 1997 speech to students, Sherman explained that being an
inventor does not require a lot of money or education, nor is it a
matter of age or gender. She once remarked, "How many great
discoveries would never have occurred were it not for accidents?"
Paul Niemann may be reached at
Copyright Paul Niemann 2007
[Text from file received
from Paul Niemann]