Most patent holders in the world are men.
This is due to the lack of representation of women in STEM careers, and many other systemic issues. But despite all of this, many women have fought back.
Thanks to their resilience and vision, women have been able to get patents to profit from their ideas, protect them, and make this world a better place with their inventions.
To recognize these women and to inspire the next generations to take their ideas seriously, we’ve done this list of famous women inventors.
Alice received a patent in 1919 for a heating solution that would be precursor to modern heating systems.
She was inspired by the cold winters in New Jersey where she grew up. She saw that fireplaces were very ineffective so she decided to do something about it. She invented a system that used gas that contained individually controlled air ducts. These air ducts transferred heat to different parts of buildings. It was never implemented because of safety issues, but it inspired the invention of thermostats, zone heating and forced air furnaces.
She’s a great example of how representation is important for girls. Her mother was a mathematician that worked as a computer programmer, so, growing up, Perlman knew that working in tech was a possibility.
One of her most important and best-known inventions is the Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP). Invented in 1985, this innovation transformed the Ethernet, which was limited to a few hundred nodes in just one building, to a large network with hundreds of thousands of nodes… over larger areas!
She still works at Dell.
Before Nancy Johnson decided to do something about it, making ice cream took a long time… hours!
Johnson invented an appliance with hand-cranked spatulas inside a cylinder. The spatulas, to which she added holes, scraped ice from the walls of the cold container. This was such a good idea, she patented it.
One amazing thing about this invention is that it didn’t only help make ice cream faster. Before the machine existed, the process was very labor-intensive, taking hours to make just one batch (that was not always the same).
With the invention of this ice cream maker, shops were able to make ice cream faster and cheaper. Thanks to it, more ice cream shops could open and this dessert became more popular!
One day, Mary Elizabeth Walton heard that Thomas Alva Edison couldn’t invent something to reduce the noise of elevated railway systems. What did she do? She tried to do it herself.
She built a model of the tracks in her basement and after some tests, she found out a solution including boxes with cotton and sand. Her system reduced the noise of the trains and she patented it in 1881.
The smart woman Walton was, she decided to sell her idea to the Metropolitan Railroad for $10,000 (approximately $250,000 today). The system was later used by other elevated railway companies!
A Hollywood star that had a side hustle! And not just any hustle, Hedy Lamarr contributed to the invention of a frequency-hopping spread spectrum communication for torpedo guidance in 1940.
Why is that important?
This technology was later used as the foundation for other inventions like WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth!
Although at the moment couldn’t be implemented, the US Navy implemented it by 1957.
She also helped Howard Hughes improve aircraft aerodynamics and invented a tablet that could turn water into a carbonated beverage (which was never successful).
Imagine inventing your own field of study. Well, Carolyn did just that.
In 2003, she coined the term bioorthogonal chemistry to describe reactions that don’t interact with cells’ biology. Later on, it became a field of study, allowing scientists to chemically modify molecules within living systems.
This is super interesting because it can be used as a tool for pretargeting experiments in radiotherapy, for example.
Bertozzi has more than 50 patents with her name and in 2008, with some of her colleagues, she launched her own startup to commercialize the SMARTag technology, a bioorthogonal approach to fight tumors.
Learning about women that have made careers as scientists, inventors, and researchers can only inspire us to keep supporting women in their careers!