Did you know that these women were behind some of the most incredible tools and tech we know and love today?
You’d probably be surprised to learn that we owe the magic of connecting ourselves to the digital world wirelessly to the actress Hedy Lamarr. After getting bored with Hollywood, she decided to carry out a series of experiments. She worked together with composer George Antheil to help the Allies in World War II control torpedoes using encrypted wireless communications. But, together, they ended up inventing the frequency-hopping spread-spectrum system that would later give birth to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. (And chances are, you’re using that technology right now to read this article.)
2. Coffee filters
Every morning, you should thank Melitta Bentz for the fact that you can drink your coffee well-filtered and without any gritty particles. A German housewife, she was tired of the bitter taste and unpleasant texture of her coffee, so she created a filter using blotting paper and a tin can. She patented her idea in 1908.
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3. The modern syringe
In 1899, nurse Letitia Geer designed the first hypodermic syringe that could be used with just one hand. It’s not that we like being pricked with needles, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil, and this redesign made a huge difference in the world of medicine. Can you imagine people with diabetes always having to depend on someone else to inject them with insulin?
4. Disposable diapers
If you are a mother, you know that only a woman would think of creating disposable diapers … to avoid the unpleasant task of washing them. Marion Donovan created impermeable diapers, inspired by shower curtains, and patented them in 1951. At the beginning, factory owners (generally men at the time) didn’t recognize the need for this invention, nor the market for mass producing it (we all know who used to change the diapers or wash baby’s clothes), but in 1961 a businessman named Victor Mills adopted Donovan’s idea and founded Pampers.
5. Dishwashing machines
If you are lucky enough to have that magical machine which cleans plates almost without effort on your part, you should know you have a debt of gratitude to Josephine Cochrane, who invented the device in 1887. When she presented her creation, many hotels and restaurants requested one almost immediately; later, its popularity grew until ordinary households started to own them, which made our lives easier (and our hands less pruned).
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6. Central heating
Are you tired of bundling up in sweaters and blankets to stay warm indoors during the cold of winter, or of having to keep heaters running in each room? In 1919, Alice Parker came up with a central heating system that runs on natural gas. Although her specific design was never built, it inspired the central heating systems we use today.
This famous board game may conjure up the image of an old man wearing a monocle for most of us, but it was invented in 1904 by a woman: Elizabeth Magie. She called it The Landlord’s Game because it was a critique of the injustices of capitalism. Ironically, a man named Charles Darrow stole her invention 30 years later and sold it to Parker Brothers.
8. The electric refrigerator
Say yes to fresh food! Florence Parpart invented the first modern refrigerator in 1914, completely changing the way food is conserved—and, consequently, transforming the kitchen. Earlier in her life she had also registered a patent for a street-cleaning machine, which she sold in various American cities.
9. Life boats
In 1882, Maria Beasley asked herself, “Why do so many people have to die in shipwrecks?” And so, she created collapsible life rafts (which helped reduce the death toll on the Titanic, for example). However, her fortune came from a different invention: a machine for making wooden barrels, which were used for storing wine or other kinds of food.
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10. Fire escapes
Another woman who saved thousands of lives with her genius was Anna Connelly, who in 1887 patented the familiar metal staircases attached to the sides of buildings, useful not only for fleeing in case of fire, but also for various other kinds of emergencies.
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia.