When you think of famous inventors, you probably think of Thomas Edison and his work with the light bulb, Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, and Eli Whitney with the cotton gin, all men. Women, however, have played a great role with inventions that have helped further develop the world as you know it. Here are the top 25 inventions by women, in no particular order.
- Windshield wipers: in the very early 1900s, moving vehicles had to drive with their windows down in order to see where they were driving. Mary Anderson changed this with the invention of the windshield wiper, and by 1916, they were a staple in all American cars.
- Cleaning and curing corn crops: although the patent was issued to her husband because women did not have the legal right to patents, Sybilla Masters invented a way to clean and cure the corn crops that the natives had given as gifts. Of the top 25 inventions by women, hers was the first recorded invention by a woman in America.
- Electric food mixer/foot pedal trash can: also known for her research in ergonomics, Lillian Moller Gilbreth invented the electric food mixer and the trash can with the foot pedal to open the lid.
- Slimsuit: Carol Wior invented the slimsuit, which acts to take off at least an inch from the stomach or waste without an unnatural look.
- Stem cell isolation: Ann Tsukamoto’s invention to isolate the stem cell has been vital in medical advancements in learning more about cancer and hopes are that one day, it could lead to a cure.
7. IV catheter shield: family team Betty Rozier and Lisa Vallino invented a shield to make the use of IVs easier and safer.
8. Liquid paper: everyone makes mistakes while writing, and thanks to Bette Nesmith Graham’s invention of liquid paper you can cover up that mistake.
9. Radioactive metals: Marie Curie’s discovery of radium and polonium led her to discover that the properties of the two metals were able to kill tumors. Marie Curie is the only woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize twice, with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Of the top 25 inventions by women, Curie is one of the most famous women to date.
10. Dishwasher: Josephine Cochran invented the dishwasher in 1886, a spinoff and much better version of what Joel Houghton had attempted 30 years earlier.
11. Ironing board: Sarah Boone’s patent of the ironing board allowed users to easily iron both sides of a shirt.
12. Apgar Score: the Apgar Score was invented by Virginia Apgar which is utilized to determine the overall health of a newborn.
13. Telephone switch system: to help eliminate the issue of call overloads, Erna Schneider Hoover invented the computerized switch system which automatically adjusted the phone’s acceptance rate of calls.
15. Natural cotton: Sally Fox invented the production of naturally colored cotton.
16. Chocolate chip cookies: every kid’s favorite inventor, Ruth Wakefield came up with the chocolate chip cookie in 1930 and the rest is delicious history.
17. Compiler: Grace Murray Hopper invented the compiler which served to convert commands to computer code, meaning faster and more precise computer coding. Rear Admiral Hopper was also the first person to use the term “computer bug.” Among many other awards, she was presented with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal upon her final retirement.
18. Flare system: Martha Coston invented the colored flare system, used for ships communicating at night.
19. The square-bottomed paper bag making machine: by making paper bags with a square bottom, Margaret Knight made paper bags stronger and much more useful. At the age of 12, Knight developed a stop-motion device that would automatically halt industrial machines if something was caught on them, thus preventing many injuries. Knight was awarded more than 20 patents.
20. Kevlar: The use of kevlar vests (bulletproof vests) was not in use before Stephanie Kwolek invented kevlar in the 1960s.
21. Exterior staircase fire escape: credit for safe escapes from burning multi-story structures goes to Anna Connelly who patented the first fire escape (complete with exterior staircases) in 1887.
22. Circular saw: Tabitha Babbitt is credited with inventing the first circular saw used in a saw mill in 1813. She was watching men use the difficult two-man pit saw when she noticed that half of their motion was wasted. Because of her beliefs as a Shaker, Babbitt never patented any of her inventions.
23. Non-reflective glass: In 1938, Katherine Blodgett patented the film and process that resulted in the world’s first 100% transparent or invisible glass. The process requires applying minute layers of monomolecular coatings of film to the glass.
24. Geobond: An unexpected discovery, Geobond is a building material that is indestructible, fire-proof and non-toxic that was invented by Patty Billings, a sculptor. She achieved her goal to create a cement additive, resulting in an indestructible plaster, that prevented her sculptures from shattering. She then discovered that it is amazingly resistant to heat which led to building material applications.
25. Nystatin antifungal: In 1948, Elizabeth Lee Hazen and Rachel Fuller Brown teamed up to develop nystatin, the first non-toxic drug treatment for fungal infections in humans. Their research has multiple applications, from saving infected trees to restoring paintings and artwork damaged due to mold.