Throughout history, many of the women who have contributed to progress in different areas have fallen by the wayside. So, and to mark International Women’s Day, we decided to recover the inventions of some pioneers. We are talking about truly innovative creations that are part of everyday life in our homes.
The first house with solar energy
Mária Telkes was a scientist of Hungarian origin who worked at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the mid-20th century. Telkes investigated the properties of materials that change their state according to temperature, which led her to look for processes capable of capturing energy through different materials.
Thanks to this, this researcher equipped a house, dubbed the Dover Sun House, with solar panels. It would be, at that time, the only existing house heated solely by solar energy, according to MIT. Built in 1948, it had a series of glass and metal panels that heated the air using sunlight. This air was then led to insulated storage vessels containing sodium sulphate. This stored heat on sunny days and released it on cold days.
A cousin of Mária Telkes even lived in the house for a few years, until the system failed.
Washing Machines and Dishwashers
The truth is that women have thought of countless and ingenious solutions to innovate in domestic tasks throughout history. In 1859, Elizabeth Merrel, a worker in the British metalworking sector, created the first electric washing machine, according to the International Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). However, it was Alva John Fisher who went down in history as the father of this invention.
In 1890, nearly a decade before Fisher created his model washing machine; a Spanish woman named Elia Garci-Lara registered “a mechanical clothing washing machine” with the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (OEPM).
Patent and Trademark Office
The project consisted of a system that classified clothes according to their type and dirt, rinsing and then draining them using a “centrifugal hydro-extractor”. Finally, the machine would iron and fold the laundry when it was dry. An advanced model for its time, which did not materialize.
The appliance that triumphed, for being much more sophisticated and complete than previous versions, was Josephine Cochrane’s dishwasher , patented in 1886 in the USA.
Unlike previous patents, Cochrane’s invention had great commercial success and reached many hotels and restaurants, only to be adapted to the home environment years later.
From the first programmer to the forerunner of Wi-Fi
In the 19th century, British mathematician Ada Lovelace became the first programmer in history. In 1833, he met the British mathematician and inventor Charles Babbage, who explained to him that he had built a primitive computer, an analytical machine capable of solving polynomial operations.
A decade later, Lovelace published a translation of an article describing Babbage’s analytic machine. Mathematics added several notes, including a sequence of operations to solve problems: the first algorithm processed by a machine.
We also owe the female geniuses the wireless connection system to access the internet from anywhere: Wi-Fi.
Hedy Lamarr, one of the Hollywood stars of the 30s and 40s, spent some time developing a secret communications system. It worked with 88 frequencies, equivalent to the piano keys, and allowed to ignore the transmission signals between the frequencies of the magnetic spectrum.
Lamarr and pianist George Antheil registered the patent, but they never gained much recognition from the American government, although they used the idea in 1962 for military communications. Despite this, the idea of the American actress was the precursor of wireless communications today used by mobile phones, GPS or Wi-Fi.
Extendable bed, the invention of an African-American pioneer
In 1885, Sarah E. Goode became the first African-American woman to obtain a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office. Together with her husband, she worked in a furniture store. It was there that, listening to customers’ needs; he decided to create a useful space-saving solution at home: an extendable bed. To build it, he designed a table on which a complete bed could be placed, thanks to a system of hinges and springs.
Gas central heating
In 1919, Alice H. Parker, another African-American inventor, patented a new boiler design. The new system designed by Parker included a regulation mechanism to distribute the heat from the boiler to different rooms in the same house or structure. The patent revolutionized the way of heating homes at that time and gave rise to the well-known central heating system, which today continues to heat many modern buildings around the world.
The electronic book, invention of a Spanish woman
Ángela Ruiz Robles, a teacher born in León and who spent most of her life in Galicia, presented her project for a mechanical encyclopedia in 1949 at the Spanish patent and trademark office. The aim was to lighten the weight of children’s backpacks and make learning more attractive. So he decided to create a prototype that used a mechanical pressurized air system in which reels could be changed to read different books.
An avant-garde project that didn’t find investors in Spain for them to be mass-produced. Dona Angelita’s invention, as it was known, fell into oblivion. Madrid City Council has just announced that a street in the Villaverde district will be named after this inventor.