1. The car heater
The first car heater, which directed air from over the engine to warm the chilly toes of aristocratic 19th-century motorists, was invented by Margaret A. Wilcox in 1893. She also invented a combined clothes and dish washer, which someone should please build immediately.
One of the most famous board games of all time, responsible for endless hours of wholesome family fun and/or devastating family arguments, was invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1904 under the original name The Landlord’s Game. Magie’s game was a critique of the injustices of unchecked capitalism, making it all the more ironic when her game was completely ripped off by Charles Darrow 30 years later, who sold it to Parker Brothers. The firm eventually tracked down Magie and paid her $500 for her troubles.
3. The fire escape
This device, so vital both to public safety and the smoking habits of urban hipsters, was invented in 1887 by Anna Connelly.
4. The life raft
One day in 1882, Maria Beasely looked out at the sea and said, “People should, like, stop dying in huge transportation disasters.” And then she invented life rafts. Beasely also invented a machine for making barrels, and it made her really fucking rich.
5. Residential solar heating
Physicist and solar-power pioneer Dr. Maria Telkes teamed up with an equally badass lady, the architect Eleanor Raymond, to build the first home entirely heated by solar power in 1947.
6. The medical syringe
Oh, the wonders of modern medicine. In 1899, Letitia Geer invented a medical syringe that could be operated with only one hand. Remember her the next time your doctor injects you with only one hand.
7. The modern electric refrigerator
Florence Parpart invented the modern electric refrigerator in 1914. In 1900, Parpart also received a patent for a vastly improved street-cleaning machine, which she marketed and sold to cities across America, because she was incredibly badass.
8. The ice cream maker
Nancy Johnson invented the ice cream freezer in 1843, patenting a design which is still used to the current day, even after the advent of electric ice cream makers. Thank you, Nancy Johnson. Thank you.
9. The computer algorithm
Ada Lovelace, whose father was Lord Byron, was encouraged by her scientist mother from a young age to become a fucking champion of mathematics. Lovelace worked with Charles Babbage at the University of London on his plans for an “analytic engine” (i.e. old-timey computer) to develop ways to program the machine with mathematical algorithms, essentially making her “the first computer programmer”.
10. More telecommunications technology than you could shake a stick at
The theoretical physicist Dr Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT, in 1973. While working at Bell Laboratories, she conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
11. The dishwasher
Saving untold marriages over the last century and a half, the dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane in 1887. She marketed her invention to hotel owners, scandalously going to meetings without a husband, brother, or father to escort her, and eventually opened her own factory.
12. Wireless transmissions technology
Hedy Lamarr’s invention of a secret communications system during World War II for radio-controlling torpedoes, employing “frequency hopping” technology, laid the technological foundations for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS. She also happened to be a world-famous film star.
Marie Van Brittan Brown’s system for closed-circuit television security, patented in 1969, was intended to help people ensure their own security, as police were slow to respond to calls for help in her New York City neighbourhood. Her invention forms the basis for modern CCTV systems used for home security and police work today.
14. The paper bag as you know it
Margaret Knight received her patent for a machine that could produce square-bottomed bags in 1871, after a long legal battle with a fellow machinist, Charles Anan, who tried to steal her work by arguing that such a brilliant invention could not possibly have been invented by a girl. That gentleman has thankfully been forgotten by history. Also, when Knight was 12 years old, she invented a safety device for cotton mills which is still used today.
15. Central heating
Every time you feel grateful that you don’t have to run around your house in the winter, desperately adding fuel to each room’s individual fireplace to fight back the bitter, bitter cold, think of Alice Parker, who invented a system of gas-powered central heating in 1919. While her particular design was never built, it was the first time an inventor had conceived of using natural gas to heat a personal home, and inspired the central heating systems of the future.
The chemist Stephanie Kwolek invented the super-strong Kevlar fibre, used to make bulletproof vests. Kwolek’s invention is five times stronger than steel, and also has about 200 other uses.
17. Computer software
Dr Grace Murray Hopper, a rear admiral in the U.S. navy, was also a computer scientist who invented COBOL, “the first user-friendly business computer software program”. She was also the first person to use to term “bug” to describe a glitch in a computer system, after finding an actual moth causing trouble in her computer.
Oh, what’s that, bro? You’re just enjoying a bottle of delicious, super-manly beer? Guess what! Beer is totally a girl’s drink. Beer historian Jane Peyton claims that ancient Mesopotamian women were the first to develop, sell, and even drink beer. While it may be hard to pin down exactly who, thousands of years ago, “invented” the beer we know and love today, it’s safe to say that ancient women all over the world were sure as hell fermenting something. So next time you raise a glass, make a toast to Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of brewing and beer!
A previous version of this article stated that Dr Shirley Jackson’s inventions included developments in the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fibre optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. This has been altered to clarify that her scientific research allowed others to invent these telecommunications technologies.
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