The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was the genius. [Sid Caesar]
For example, men have been the undisputed leaders in the automotive industry, but it was a woman named Margaret Wilcox, who made riding in an automobile more cozy with her 1893 invention of the car heater. Thanks to her device, which blew air over the top of the hot engine to warm the tootsies of nineteenth century motorists, women no longer got cold feet when it came to taking a spin with their fellas. Alas, her other invention of the combined clothes and dishwasher didn't catch on, possibly because people weren't enthralled with the idea of their soiled undies sharing a basin with their dinner plates. (Picky, picky, picky.) Another innovation that greatly improved motor vehicles was Mary Anderson's 1903 invention of the windshield wiper. True, we no longer have to manipulate a lever by hand to sweep a rubber blade over the windshield, but her ideas cleared the way for motorized versions.
I don't think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness— to save oneself trouble. [Agatha Christie]
If you've read any of the studies about how the opinion of men and women differs when it comes to a comfortable room temperature, you shouldn't be surprised a woman name Alice Parker, who was probably sick and tired of having to wear a sweater in her own house, came up with the idea for gas-powered central heating in 1919. Although her unit was never manufactured, her idea allowed for the use of natural gas to heat homes, leading to the systems still used today. I thought, perhaps, that a menopausal woman might have come up with the first air conditioning unit, but I was wrong. It was a guy named Willis Carrier. ( Inspired by his wife or mother's hot flashes, perhaps...?)
|[photo credit: Dupont Corporation]|
|[photo credit: Harvard school of design library]|
Anybody else remember working with room-sized computers? Yeah, we really have come a long way, baby. In the '40s, Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, who in addition to being a computer scientist, was also a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, invented COBOL, the first user-friendly computer software for businesses. She is allegedly also the first person to use the word bug in referring to a computer system glitch... and with good reason. She literally found a live bug inside of her computer... to be specific, a moth... which was wreaking havoc with the system.
This is a rather romantic-looking portrait of Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron. She, too, was a writer, but she was also a mathematician. She worked with Charles Babbage on an early mechanical general-purpose computer called the Analytical Engine, and her notes revealed the first algorithm intended to be carried out by machine, making her the world's first known computer programmer. (circa 1842)
There are only 10 kinds of people in the world– those who understand binary, and those who don't.
The Analytical Engine, which is currently housed in London's Science Museum.
Old movie buffs may recognize the oh-so glamorous Hedy Lamarr from this 1940 photo of her from MGM. But she was far from being just a pretty face. During WWII, she devised a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes. Based on spread spectrum frequency-hopping, this innovative technology paved the way for everything from WiFi to GPS.
Here's another invention you might be surprised to know came from a woman. Closed circuit TV. In the sixties, Marie Van Brittain Brown worked as a New York nurse, and often worked the night shift, leaving her home alone during the day in a neighborhood riddled with crime and a notoriously slow police response time. With her husband Albert, she devised a device in 1969 comprised of a movable camera that could peer through any of four peepholes in the front door, and sent the images to a monitor in her bedroom. Not only could she move the camera to see who was at the door, she could communicate with them verbally, remotely unlock the door, and hit an alarm button, if need be.
This game board remind you of anything? It's The Landlord's Game, created by Elizabeth Magio in 1904 as a tool to teach about the injustices of unchecked capitalism. She was denied a patent when she first applied for it, on the basis that the game was too complicated. Didn't stop others from building on her idea to create their own versions of it... including Charles Darrow, who successfully sold his game to Parker Brothers as Monopoly in 1934, and allegedly made millions of dollars. As for Ms. Magio, the company later compensated her, too, to the tune of five hundred bucks.
Another gal who almost had her idea stolen is Margaret Knight, who invented a machine in 1871 that folded and glued paper to make square-bottomed bags. The cad who tried to steal her idea claimed that no woman could invent something so brilliant. Luckily for her, not only was she brilliant enough to invent the machine, she was also brilliant enough to be able to prove it. Not only was she the first woman to get a patent in the United States, she became the holder of 87 of them in her lifetime, including one for a safety device for cotton mills, which she invented at the age of twelve, and which is still used today. Yep, when it came to her smarts, she had it... in the bag.
|Ninkasi, Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer [wikipedia]|
Women are also credited with some rather fun creations, too. Like an ice cream maker! Nancy Johnson came up with that one in 1843, and thanks to her, we can all enjoy a
Okay, if you men aren't duly impressed with any of the items mentioned thus far, maybe this one will make you sit up and take notice. According to beer historians, (Who even knew there was such a thing?!) Mesopotamian women were the first to develop, sell, and drink... beer.
Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza. [Dave Barry]
Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
Thanks to Mr. Whyatt for graciously granting permission to post his cartoons on my blog from time to time.