Unfortunately, male inventors get all of the glory. Who hasn’t heard of folks such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, or Alexander Graham Bell? But have you heard of Hedy Lamarr, Lise Meitner, or Ada Lovelace? What about wireless communication, nuclear fission or computer programming? Would you believe us if we told you that all of these were invented, or discovered, by women?
Even though there are a few famous female inventors, many women in STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) often got snubbed, or have even had their work stolen by their male colleagues. If you enjoy reading about kicka** women, then you’ll love our list of the 15 things that were invented by the ladies that unfortunately, men took the credit for.
15. The Paper Bag
Margaret Knight (1838-1914) Margaret Knight was an exceptionally prolific inventor in the late 19th century; journalists occasionally compared her to her better-known male contemporary Thomas Edison by nicknaming her “the lady Edison” or “a woman Edison.” Knight was born in York, Maine and was still a young girl when she began working in a textile mill in New Hampshire. After seeing a fellow worker injured by a faulty piece of equipment, Knight came up with her first invention: a safety device for textile looms. She was awarded her first patent in 1871, for a machine that cut, folded and glued flat-bottomed paper shopping bags, thus eliminating the need for workers to assemble them slowly by hand. Knight received 27 patents in her lifetime, for inventions including shoe-manufacturing machines, a “dress shield” to protect garments from perspiration stains, a rotary engine and an internal combustion engine. http://www.biography.com/news/famous-women-inventors-biography #WomensHistorMonth #MargaretKnight #FemaleInventors #LadyEdison
Who doesn’t remember bringing their lunch to school in a brown paper bag and being envious of all the other kids with their fancy-schmancy lunch boxes? Well, we have Margaret Knight to thank for inventing the paper bag.
She invented a machine that would create the paper bag, and took the model to local shop in order to create an iron prototype. A little bit later, she moved to Boston and worked with two machinists to refine her invention. While in Boston, another machinist named Charles Anan stopped by and with Margaret’s permission, examined the proceedings.
Well, Charles was a sneaky jerk and when Margaret filed for a patent a few months later, she was shocked to hear that a patent for her machine had been given to Charles.
However, hades hath no fury like a pissed-off inventor, and Margaret gathered witnesses and evidence and sued the pants off of Charles. She won, and brown paper bags grew in popularity, so Margaret had the last laugh.
14. Wireless Communication
Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr was also an inventor, and she decided to create something that would help the war effort. So she worked with a composer named George Antheil to create the “spread-spectrum radio” that would change radio frequencies in order to keep the enemy from decoding messages. Our wireless technology today still has vestiges of Lamarr’s work, and we probably wouldn’t have things like wireless routers if it wasn’t for this awesome lady.
Unfortunately, after Lamarr and Antheil got their patent, they took their idea to the Navy, but they weren’t interested at first. They classified the patent and the technology remained untouched until the Navy decided to develop a “sonobuoy” that would detect submarines in the water and transmit that information to an airplane flying above them. The military and private companies started developing technologies around Lamarr’s invention, but she got no credit.
Thankfully, a pioneer for wireless communication for computers found Lamarr’s original patent and realize she’d never been honored for her work. In 1997, Lamar and Antheil were given the Electronic Frontier Foundation Award. She also became the first woman to receive the BULBIE TM Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award.
13. Replica Plating
This is Esther Lederberg, microbiologist and @Science’s #WCW! Born in the Bronx in 1922, Lederberg was first immersed in the world of science while working at the New York Botanical Garden as an undergrad, studying a red bread mold called Neurospora crassa. Her work as a research assistant to Alexander Hollaender kick-started her love of genetics, and she worked toward a master's degree through a fellowship at Stanford University. Her claim to fame was her and her husband Joshua's invention of a lab technique called replica plating, which made it possible to study bacteria mutations each step of the way. This technique eventually utilized pieces of velvet in the process, but originally, Esther’s powder puff from her compact was used to transfer bacteria from one plate to another. We hope sure hope she threw it away after that! #Science #Microbiology #EstherLederberg #Bacteria #StanfordUniversity
Esther Lederberg was a microbiologist who worked alongside her first husband Joshua Lederberg to develop a way that would easily allow scientists to transfer bacterial colonies from one petri dish to another, which helped facilitate the study of antibiotic resistance. The Lederbergs called this technique the Lederberg Method, and it is still being used today.
Esther also discovered a virus that infects bacteria, which she called the lambda bacteriophage in 1951.
Unfortunately, Esther’s husband Joshua got all of the credit for the Lederberg Method. Their work on replica plating was one of the reasons why he won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for physiology or medicine, which he shared with George Beadle and Edward Tatum. NOT COOL, JOSHUA, NOT COOL.
Even though Esther wasn’t honored for the role she played with replica plating and her husband took the glory, her discoveries played a huge role in laying the groundwork for future discoveries with bacteria, genetic recombination and gene regulation.
12. The Modern Brassiere
Okay ladies, who hasn’t started tearing their hair out in frustration when going bra shopping because OF COURSE, the store doesn’t carry their size?
Despite how incredibly frustrating it is to find cute bras in our size, we would still be stock wearing corsets if it wasn’t for Mary Phelps Jacob. She was a young New York socialite who was absolutely sick of being laced into corsets, especially after she noticed how the support rods kept peeking out from underneath her gowns.
Mary teamed up with her maid to sew two silk handkerchiefs together using pink ribbon and some cord in order to create a lightweight alternative. Her invention soon became popular with friends, family, and even strangers, so Mary quickly patented the “backless brassiere” and began selling them under the name “Caresse Crosby.”
Unfortunately, not many people remember that Mary was the mother of the modern bra. Her invention didn’t take off until World War I, when the U.S. government asked women to conserve metal by not buying corsets. By that time, Mary had sold her invention to the Warner Brothers Corset Company and they overshadowed Mary after they started to market the most popular brassiere in the U.S. for the next 30 years.
11. DNA Double Helix
James Watson and Francis Crick changed the world when they published their now-famous article in Nature about the discovery of the DNA double helix structure, but they ripped off a British biophysicist named Rosalind Franklin.
Rosalind was the one who fine-honed a technique that allowed scientists to closely observe molecules using X-Ray diffraction and was the first person to capture a photographic image of DNA. The image became known as Photo 51, and an estranged male colleague named Maurice Wilkinson, who had previously had a conflict with Rosalind, showed James and Francis the photo.
Since James and Francis were competing with Rosalind, they used Photo 51 as the basis for their research and turned her unpublished research into a mere historical footnote. Now that folks, is a prime example of misogyny in science.
Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) studied radioactivity and experimental physics. She is known for her work on the Manhattan Project, and for providing the first experimental proof that the principle of parity conservation does not hold in weak subatomic interactions, thus helping to disprove the Law of Conservation of Parity. #chienshiungwu #badasswoman #physics #radioactivity #science
Chien-Shiung Wu is famous for overturning a law of physics, but sadly, she didn’t receive a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.
Chien-Shiung was recruited in the 1940s by Columbia University in order to work on the Manhattan Project, and decided to stay in the United States after World War II.
In the ‘50s, two theoretical physicists named Tsung-Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang asked Wu if they could help disprove the law of parity, which says that in quantum mechanics, two physical systems (like atoms) that were mirror images of each other would also behave in the exact same way.
Wu started experimenting with Cobalt-60, which is a radioactive form of the metal cobalt, and disproved the law of parity, which had been accepted for 30 years.
The often-repeated tale about the creation of the popular board game Monopoly states that an unemployed man by the name of Charles Darrow came up with the idea and then sold it to the Parker Brothers.
NOPE. The original creator was a woman named Elizabeth Magie, who came up with the idea for the Landlord’s Game in 1903, which was three decades before Darrow brought his board game to the Parker Brothers. Elizabeth was PISSED at the big monopolists of her time (think Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller) so she created a game that would serve as a protest against them.
She came up with two different sets of rules for her game: an anti-monopolist set where everyone was rewarded when wealth was created, and the monopolist version where the goal of the game was to create monopolies and crush opponents. Elizabeth came up with the two different ideas in order to prove that the first set of rules was morally superior to the greedy monopolist point of view.
Needless to say, Elizabeth was furious when Charles appropriated her idea and for her efforts in creating the Monopoly everyone knows and loves today, Parker Brothers stiffed Elizabeth by only paying her $500. Talk about cheapskates!
8. Nuclear Fission
Lise Meitner is best known for discovering nuclear fission, which means that atomic nuclei can split into two, and her work in nuclear physics paved the way for the atomic bomb.
After finishing up her doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, Meitner moved to Berlin in 1907 and started working with a chemist named Otto Hahn.
After the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, Meitner (who was Jewish) moved to Stockholm, Sweden and kept working with her pal Otto in secret by holding meetings at Copenhagen.
Sadly, even though Otto performed experiments that showed evidence that supported the idea of nuclear fission, he couldn’t come up with an explanation for WHY atomic nuclei could split in two. It was Lise and her nephew Otto Frisch, who came up with the corresponding theory.
Otto Hahn published their findings without crediting Lise as a co-author, and he alone won the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contributions to splitting the atom. Not cool, Otto! It’s important to give credit where credit is due!
7. Computer Programming
Ada Lovelace’s mother pushed her daughter to study the field of mathematics so she wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of her infamous father, Lord Byron. She fell in love with the field, and at the age of 20, started collaborating with an inventor named Charles Babbage.
Together, they came up with an idea for an “Analytical Machine,” which was an early model of the computer. In 1843, Ada added a series of extensive notes to a paper on Babbage’s machine and pointed out that it could be fed step-by-step instructions to perform complicated math problems and also trained to use words and symbols to compose music too.
Ada’s notes are the first descriptions of computer programming and algorithms, but for years historians argued over whether or not Ada wrote them herself or if Babbage was the real author. Some historians wrote Ada off, but Babbage’s memoirs suggests that Lord Byron’s daughter was the one who wrote those notes.
6. Windshield Wipers
#STEMFact#EngineeringIsGreat . The first windshield wiper was invented by Mary Anderson in 1903, years before Henry Ford industrialized automobile production. . Mary's invention was inspired by a trolley ride on a frosty day in New York City: a hand-operated lever inside the vehicle that triggered a spring-loaded rubber-bladed arm outside the windshield, with a counterweight to ensure steady contact between the wiper and windshield. . Check our website in bio to sign up for The AAT Project™ Newsletter for more info and ideas. . #sciencefact#stemfactor#Stem#science#sciencenerd#factors#stemlife#knowledge#knowledgeispower#lovescience#scientificfact#knowledges#scientists #scientific #sciences #invention #structure #creation #windshield #wiper #industrialdesign #engineering #instaengineer #polished #vehicle
Mary Anderson was visiting New York in 1903 and she was completely appalled at a driver either having to constantly wipe the snow and sleet off of his windshield, or stick his head out of the window in order to see.
As soon as she returned home to Alabama, she started working on the first windshield wipers. Her version of the device would attach to the outside of the car, with a long spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade. The driver could turn a handle from inside of the car to move the arm without having to stick their hands out in freezing cold weather.
Mary filed for a patent in 1903 and tried to sell her ideas to several companies, but sadly, they rejected her invention. Her idea for windshield wipers was largely forgotten, and once the patent expired, other less-than-scrupulous inventors were able to copy her idea. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 50s that windshield wipers became a standard feature on cars.
5. Disposable Diapers
Like most mothers, Marion Donovan got easily frustrated with constantly having to change her youngest child’s diapers. In the post World War II-era, mothers had to use cloth diapers, and Marion wanted to change that. So one day, she sat down with a shower curtain and her sewing machine; soon after, Marion had created a waterproof diaper that didn’t pinch her child’s skin and didn’t cause a rash.
Unfortunately, manufacturers weren’t interested in her idea and she struck out on her own by selling them at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1949. She received a patent in 1951 and sold the rights to the Keko Corporation.
Marion’s next project was a fully disposable diaper, and she had to use a special type of paper that was not only strong and absorbent, but also drew water away from the baby’s skin. Once again, manufacturers weren’t interested and people told her that a disposable diaper was a bad idea. It wasn’t until 1961 when Victor Mills used Marion’s ideas to create Pampers, and her contribution was lost in the sands of time.
4. Liquid Paper
When Bette Nesmith Graham was working as an executive secretary, she became exasperated when she had to constantly re-type entire pages because of a small error.
Bette watched painters covering any imperfections with an extra layer of paint when they were decorating the windows of the bank where she worked, and decided to use a white, water-based tempera paint to cover her typing errors. She sold her first batch of “Mistake Out” in 1956, and it was a total hit with her co-workers, all of which who wanted their own bottle so that they too could hide their spelling errors and typos.
Bette kept working on the formula and called the refined product “Liquid Paper” in 1958. She applied for a patent and a trademark that year, but the company really took off by 1967. Sadly, six months before she died in 1980, Bette sold her company to the Gillette Corporation and many people today do not even realize that she was the brains behind the invention.
3. Signal Flares
When Martha Coston found herself widowed at the tender age of 21, she looked through the former naval scientist’s notebook and saw that he’d been thinking about creating a signal flare.
She wanted to improve upon his design since the flares had to be both bright and long-lasting so that they could be used for ship-to-ship or ship-to-land communication. Martha decided to use fireworks technology after several years of working on the design, and developed an elaborate system of flares that she decided to call Night Signals. She received a patent for her Pyrotechnic Night Signals in 1859, and the U.S. Navy then paid her $20,000 for the patent right.
Unfortunately, Martha did not receive credit where credit was due. She was only listed as “administratrix” in the patent and her husband received all the credit for the invention of signal flares, even though he had passed away and Martha was the one to do all of the hard work.
2. Circular Saw
Tabitha Babbit was a weaver who was a part of the Shaker community, but in 1810, she observed two men cutting wood with a pit saw. Tabitha was a smart lady, and she immediately noticed that the pit saw only cuts wood when it was pulled forward, which rendered the return cut absolutely useless.
In Tabitha’s eyes, that was a huge waste of energy and she immediately set out to come up with a better way to cut wood. Tabitha invented the first circular saw and it was used in a saw mill in 1813. Needless to say, the Shaker community appreciated her contribution because it made cutting wood a heck of a lot easier.
Unfortunately, Tabitha did not patent her design because of her Shaker beliefs. She also wanted her invention to be widely accessible to others. Sadly, only three years later, two men who had read about her invention in the Shaker papers patented her design for a circular saw.
1. Hypertext fiction
Judy Molloy was a self-taught computer programmer who was working at a tech company in the early days of Silicon Valley and she self-published a short story called Uncle Roger in 1986.
Uncle Roger is a wry take on the California tech culture as seen through the point of view of an eccentric computer chip salesman. Judy created an elaborate new database system as well as a sophisticated search engine so that readers could click through the fragments of the story in any order their heart desired and re-shape the narrative.
Sadly, in 1992 a New York Times book critic claimed that the young novelist Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, A story was the “granddaddy” of hypertext fiction, despite the fact that Judy’s Uncle Roger was published first and had garnered acclaim from the digital art community. Guess the critic couldn’t stand the fact that a woman had published hypertext fiction first and did it better!
Sources: Mental Floss, Mother Jones, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, NPR, Biography, National Geographic, Women Inventors, New York Times, Engineer Girl,
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