Tech That You Didn’t Know Were Invented by Women
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Credit: J. Howard Miller – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
“Technology is science put into practical use.” We might not know the person who first coined this quote, but these words ring true in our modern world. What we have now is the culmination of studies brought together by not only scientists but also people from different walks of life. With International Women’s Day just around the corner, we here at Tech360.tv would like to salute the women who pioneered these remarkable and life-changing inventions to improve lives and make the tomorrow that is our today.
The everyday items listed here in this article are usually overlooked by us living in the 21st century, but they wouldn’t be in our daily lives if not for the women who invented them.
Ice Cream Maker
An ice cream maker (left) and its inventor, Nancy Maria Donaldson Johnson, (right) Credit: Hubert Cloix/ US Library of Congress
Ice cream is a dessert enjoyed by people of all ages. It comes in many different flavors and is served in cones, crepes, and cups. But back in the 1800s, this tasty sweet was once a very inaccessible item reserved only for those who can afford it due to the extensive labour involved in making ice cream.
In 1846, Nancy Maria Donaldson Johnson patented a design for a hand-operated ice cream maker which made it possible for the lower classes to create ice cream for all. According to Chris Clarke’s book, “The Science of Ice Cream,” Johnson’s ice cream maker comprised of two spatulas that fitted tightly into a long cylindrical barrel. The spatulas contained holes and were attached to a shaft rotated by a crank. The outside of the cylinder was cooled with a mixture of salt and ice.
Johnson’s invention is still used to this day from modern ice cream machines found at home to the ones found in factories manufacturing this sweet dessert.
Modern Electric Refrigerators
Samsung’s BESPOKE refrigerators Credit: Samsung
Refrigerators are a must-have in the kitchen due to their ability to store countless products for an extended period of time such as meat, vegetables, bread and other perishable goods. In the times before modern electric refrigerators were invented, people had to rely on tried-and-true preservation methods such as salting or using an icebox – a compact, non-mechanical refrigerator used since the mid-19th century to store food. Back then, an icebox and a refrigerator were terms that could be used interchangeably to refer to the same item.
Not much is known about the inventor of the modern electric refrigerator, Florence Parpart, but it is known that in 1914, she patented her electric refrigerator, making the icebox obsolete. Her invention used electricity to circulate cold water throughout the refrigerator to keep it cold. The patent was filed under her husband’s name, Hiram D. Layman, who was an electrician and helped design the refrigerator we all know and love today.
In addition to the electric refrigerator, Papart also invented and received a patent for an improved street-cleaning machine before working on the refrigerator.
Wi-Fi has changed the way we connect to the internet. Gone are the days where we had to rely on local area network cables connected to a router for us to get into the internet. Most surprisingly, it was because of a beautiful and ambitious actress that the world took the first step towards discovering this technology.
Hedy Lamarr, dubbed as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” was not just a pretty face. She was a successful actress and an inventor who developed and patented the idea of “frequency hopping” which would’ve prevented military radios from being tapped into and could guide torpedoes through radio frequencies. This “frequency hopping” concept would later become the backbone for Wi-Fi, global positioning systems and Bluetooth technology.
Lamarr’s patent was shelved by the US Navy for some time before being unearthed. She was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation Award in 1997.
Credit: Getty Images
Dishwashers are a huge help in kitchens when the need arises to clean multiple tableware at the same time. This kitchen appliance saves time and a lot of energy (marriages too!) that could otherwise be spent differently.
Josephine Cochrane, a socialite, invented the dishwasher when she noticed that her chinaware would often chip when her servants scrubbed too much in the sink during cleaning. She tried to wash them herself but found the chore too laborious for her. She then created a design that consisted of water jets and a dishrack that would clean all of the dishes placed inside. She patented her design in 1886 to some success. Her design was well received by businesses but not so much by individual consumers.
Cochrane’s company, the Garis-Cochran Manufacturing Company, would eventually become part of the Whirlpool Corporation.
Credit: Dahua Technology
Closed-circuit televisions or CCTVs became an essential tool in terms of security. From homes to government offices, these tireless guardians are always on the lookout for crime and will consistently give irrefutable evidence in court dealings.
Marie Van Brittan Brown invented and patented the CCTV in 1969. She was afraid of being alone and vulnerable at her home when her husband was out at work. Their home was in a neighbourhood known to have a high crime rate, which caused her anxiety. This, and the fact that police officers in New York City back then were slow to respond to distress calls, led her to invent the basis of the CCTV. Her invention consists of four peepholes, a sliding camera, television monitors and two-way microphones. These allowed her to communicate with people on the other side as well as capture their images regardless of their height. It also helped other people ensure their own security.
Her invention was recognised in New York and she received a reward from the National Scientists Committee for it.
Credit: Sashkin/ Shutterstock
Windshield wipers are a welcome improvement on cars especially when it is raining or snowing. They wipe away raindrops or snow that would otherwise block the driver’s sight while driving.
The windshield wipers we know today came into being through the idea of one Mary Anderson. During her visit to New York in 1902, she saw her driver frequently going out of the car to scrape off the snow that piled up on the car’s windshield. She saw this inconvenience as an opportunity and started brainstorming for her invention shortly after returning home to Alabama. She came up with an idea of a lever with a rubber blade attached to it that would allow drivers to wipe the snow off windshields from inside the car.
She later patented her idea on 18 June 1903. Her idea was eventually credited to be the first one in a list of many similar devices that actually worked. She was welcomed into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011 for her invention.
Credit: Chris Reid/ Unsplash
Equipment fitted with computers such as ATMs, cash registers, smartphones and even robots would not be able to work as intended without the proper programming in them.
Charles Babbage’s partner in creating the Analytical Engine, Augusta Ada King-Noel, Countess of Lovelace, or Ada Lovelace for short, developed ways to program the engine with mathematical algorithms, making her the first computer programmer. Her work with the Analytical Engine marked the important transition from calculation to computation that would help usher in modern computers in later years.
Alan Turing would later use Ada Lovelace’s notes as a form of inspiration in his efforts to create the first modern computer in the 1940s. Ada Lovelace Day is held on the second Tuesday of October in honour of Ada Lovelace’s contribution to technology as well as other women in other fields of science and technology.
Cars would be iceboxes during cold weather and would make driving with foggy windshields a nightmare if not for the idea of one Margaret A. Wilcox.
Wilcox patented her idea for a heating system in a car to heat its cabin in 1893. This system worked by running air through a car’s engine and then to the car’s cabin. The public welcomed Wilcox’s invention but it eventually became a safety concern as the temperature from her car heater could not be regulated.
Wilcox’s invention, however, became the basis for future car heater designs. She also designed a combination of a dishwasher and a clothes washer that never took off.
Electric Hot Water Heater
The option to have hot water when you shower or take a soak in your bathtub would not have been possible without the input of inventor, Ida Forbes.
Not much is known about Ida Forbes, but she patented her idea for an electric hot water heater in 1917, a time when hot water heaters ran on gas. Her idea consisted of an electric heating system that draws water from a tank and heats it inside a mechanism. The heated water would then be released through a nozzle to spray the heated water out.
Credit: Affordable Warmth Scheme
Central heating is a blessing for those who have it as it prevents cold air from creeping into homes especially when it is winter.
Alice H. Parker became famous for her patented central heating system using natural gas. Back in the 1920s, using natural gas to power central heating systems was a novel idea. Her design draws cool air into the furnace for heating, after which the heated air goes through a heat exchanger that delivers the now-warm air through individual ducts placed in various places in a house. She patented her idea in 1919.
Parker’s heating system became the basis of the heating systems we enjoy today. The Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award was named after her. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce created the award to recognise and celebrate the contributions of women to the rich legacy of innovation in the state of New Jersey.
Written by John Paul Joaquin