Coffee filters. Monopoly. Windshield wipers. Wireless tech. These very different inventions share one thing in common: they were created by women. Despite their significant contributions, many of these female inventors have gone unrecognized.
In honor of International Women’s Day, take a moment to appreciate these six inventions we wouldn’t have without women.
Thanks to Melitta Bentz from Germany, you don’t have to worry about grounds in your cup of joe. In 1908, Bentz was in search of a better coffee-drinking experience. She was annoyed with the beverage’s bitter taste and floating grounds, so she began experimenting with sheets of blotting paper.
After punching holes in the bottom of a brass cup and lining it with the paper, she found a solution and created the paper coffee filter. She received a patent for her invention and started her own coffee-filter company from a room in her apartment.
Elizabeth "Lizzie" Magie came up with the first version of the game, patenting it in 1904 as The Landlord’s Game. She wanted to use the game to teach the masses about economic inequality, so she sold the patent to Parker Brothers for $500.
Thirty years later, a man named Charles Darrow renamed and redesigned her concept as Monopoly. He sold it to the Parker Brothers in 1935, with no mention of The Landlord’s Game.
Magie finally received credit for the game’s invention in the 2015 book, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World's Favorite Board Game.
During a visit to New York City in 1902, Mary Anderson from Alabama noticed the delays caused by drivers stopping to clear snow from their windshields. She sketched a solution: a squeegee wiper with a lever inside of the car.
Anderson received a patent for the invention in 1903. However, since the automobile industry was just emerging at the time, there wasn’t much initial interest. Now drivers likely can’t imagine driving in the rain without the help of Anderson’s invention.
“The World’s Most Beautiful Woman,” Hedy Lamarr, is responsible for Wi-Fi.
The actress was known for her command of the big screen, but Lamarr was more than a pretty face. In fact, Hollywood bored her. During World War I, Lamarr co-created a "spread-spectrum radio" with George Antheil. The system was designed to guide torpedoes accurately via radio signal without the signal being jammed.
It's now seen as a precursor to today's wireless technology.
Programming Language and Computer Software
Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Hopper was a mathematician, physicist, and leader who helped create the first computer software. In 1953, she invented a program called a compiler, which translated human instructions into computer source code. This program was designed to be used by businesses for functions like payroll and automatic billing.
Admiral Hopper’s work eventually led to the development of a universal computer language.
Ada Lovelace, daughter of Romantic poet Lord Byron, is responsible for the written instructions for the first computer program.
During the mid-1800s, she worked with mathematician Charles Babbage to translate the functions of his “Analytical Engine.” Lovelace’s translations, published in 1843, clearly describe how this device worked and an algorithm that would generate Bernoulli numbers.
This algorithm is now seen as the world’s first computer program. While some tried to discredit Lovelace, particularly due to her gender and the time period, apps and websites of today wouldn’t exist without her work.