Integral female inventors largely overlooked



Without the work of actress, scientist, and mathematician Hedy Lamarr, the Wi-Fi you’re probably using to read this wouldn’t exist.

Throughout history, there have been many impressive inventions created by men and women alike. Despite the importance of their achievements, female inventors are often left out of history books. Because March is Women’s History Month, here are some overlooked discoveries made by female inventors that our society couldn’t function without.

 In 1908, full-time mom Melitta Bentz accidentally created the first paper coffee filter when she was fed up with cleaning the bottom of the pot. She placed a regular piece of paper over the bottom of a perforated pot, filed a patent, and opened a shop with her husband and sons selling a slightly improved porcelain design. As women traditionally ruled their kitchens, many modern appliances were invented by women hoping to make their own lives easier, such as the electric refrigerator by Florence Parpart in 1914 and the dishwasher by Josephine Cochrane in the 1880s.

 One of the most popular board games today was invented by a woman. Progressivist Lizzie Magie created “The Landlord’s Game” in 1904 to demonstrate the “single tax theory” taught by economist Henry George. Her idea was stolen by Charles Darrow and sold to Parker Brothers as “Monopoly” in 1935, becoming the now-popular banking game. She received no credit until 2015, but given her decidedly anti-Monopolist views would likely be satisfied with anonymity.

 Mary Anderson patented the first automatic windshield cleaner (the predecessor to windshield wipers) in 1902 after watching her taxi driver have to reach out the window in order to manually clear the windshield of snow during a blizzard.

 In addition to her successful acting career, Hedy Lamarr was a co-creator of wireless technology in the 1940s. This technology is used today in systems like Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. On a similar technological note, Dr. Grace Hopper was an important figure in creating programming language and computer software in the 1950s, and Countess Ada Lovelace, mathematician and daughter of poet Lord Byron, is attributed with writing the first computer program in the mid-1800s.

 In the mid-1960s, nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown invented closed-circuit television, or CCTV, for the first home security system. She developed CCTV with her husband, and their patent is still regularly cited in advancements upon home security technology. Other important safety systems invented by women include the fire escape bridge by Anna Connelly in the late 1800s, the fireproof life raft by Maria Beasley in the 1880s, and Kevlar by Stephanie Kwolek (who discovered the fiber along with a team of other scientists in 1965).

 Most importantly, chef Ruth Wakefield is responsible for baking the very first chocolate chip cookies — on accident. In 1930, she stumbled upon the dish when attempting to make chocolate cookies with pieces of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate, since she was out of baker’s chocolate. When the popularity of her “Toll House Crunch Cookies” spiked, Andrew Nestlé made her a deal: he would print the recipe on his chocolate packaging and would repay her with a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. Wakefield agreed, and the rest is delicious history.

 Take some time this March (and every month) to appreciate the inventions of these brilliant women, and others, without whom life would be a lot more difficult, dangerous, and downright boring.