Tech That You Didn’t Know Were Invented by Women

Updated: Aug 20

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

Credit: Pixabay

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.


Dishwasher

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.


CCTV

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.


Windshield Wipers

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.


Computer Programming

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.