Celebrating Women Inventors

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In Honor of Women’s History Month

Female inventors have played a large role in U.S. history, but haven’t always received credit for their work. Besides the fact that their contributions have sometimes been downplayed over overlooked; particularly women of color have historically had fewer resources to apply for U.S. patents and market their inventions.

Enjoy, as this list celebrates a handful of truly life changing inventions for our world created by Women that you may not know:

Feeding Tube – Bessie Blount Griffin

Bessie Virginia Blount, also known as Bessie Blount Griffin, was an American nurse, physical therapist, inventor, handwriting expert and possibly the first Black woman to train at Scotland Yard’s Document Division. In the 1940s, she who worked with World War II veterans in New York City’s Bronx Hospital (now part of BronxCare Health System), where she taught veterans with amputations to read and write with their teeth and feet.

It was during this work that Bount invented a feeding tube device that her patients could use to feed themselves.

Blount’s invention involved a tube that delivered food to a person’s mouth whenever he or she bit down on it. She patented part of the design in 1948, then gifted the rights to the invention over to the French government in 1951 on the advice of a religious leader (the U.S. government hadn’t shown much interest in the device).

Her invention paved the way for modern feeding tubes which can be inserted into a person’s nose or stomach when the user can’t ingest food orally.

After patenting the feeding tube, Blount continued to invent and went on to become a forensic handwriting analyst.

Chemotherapy – Jane Cooke Wright (also known as “Jane Jones”)

Jane Cooke Wright was an oncologist who pioneered the use “chemotherapy” with the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast cancer and skin cancer and was one of the first scientists to test anti-cancer drugs on humans rather than solely on mice.

Jane Wright became the first African American to hold such a high position as head of the cancer chemotherapy department and associate dean at New York Medical College. She also was the first woman to be elected President of the New York Cancer Society. President Lyndon B Johnson appointed Jane to the President’s Commission of Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke (serving 1964-1965) and the National Cancer Advisory Board (serving 1966-1970).

Jane retired in 1987 by which time she had published more than 75 scientific papers, led delegations of oncologists in China, the former Soviet Union, Africa and Europe and held key positions in various international and national organizations.

Jane Wright passed away on 19 February 2013 aged 93 but her legacy lives on in the name of an award from the American Association of Cancer Research. Her contributions to the nascent field of chemotherapy have led some to call her “The Mother of Chemotherapy.”

The First Entirely Solar-powered House – Maria Telkes

Hungarian-American scientist Maria Telkes deserves credit for her work on solar technologies. The researcher was a biophysicist involved with solar energy research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Telkes designed the first thermoelectric power electric generator. The first facility to put it to use was the Dover Sun House. Telkes also created the first thermoelectric refrigerator in 1953 using the principles of Semiconductor Electricity.

The Computer – Grace Hopper

Another female inventor who must be on this list is United States Navy Rear-Admiral Grace Hopper. She displayed military prowess and possessed scientific smarts. As part of a team from Eckert-Mauchly, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark 1 Computer, a five-ton machine.

Hopper popularized independent programming languages by making them accessible. Her efforts led to the development of COBOL, a high-level programming language still in use today. She based it on English words.

Her naval rank and accomplishments earned her the title “Amazing Grace.”

At the time of her death, she had 40 honorary degrees awarded to her from universities worldwide.

Stem Cell Isolation – Ann Tsukamoto

While working in Palo Alto in 1991, Asian American scientist Ann Tsukamoto was part of the team that patented the first method of isolating blood-forming stem cells in 1991. She was one of the first world class researchers focused on the development and discovery of human stem cells.

During her career, she worked to isolate to hemotopoietic stem cell, as well as oversee the isolation of the human liver and neural stem cells to different diseases. Blood stem cells are immature cells (cells that are still developing) that can mature into all types of blood cells (white, red or platelets).

Learning how to isolate them is very important to cancer research as transplanting blood stem cells can help replace cells that were damaged by cancers like leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Dr. Tsukamoto led the scientific team that discovered the human central nervous system stem cell, and was able to identify and isolate blood forming stem cells.

Tsukamoto holds a total of 12 U.S. patents for her stem cell research, which has helped with the development of cancer treatments.

Chromosomes – Nettie Maria Stevens

Born in 1861, American geneticist Nettie Maria Stevens devoted her career to studying the life of beetles. In 1905 she observed that male beetles produced two types of sperm, one that carried a large chromosome, while the other, a small chromosome. When fertilized with a female egg, the large chromosome would produce female offspring and the small chromosome would produce male offspring.

Having noticed these chromosome differences applied to humans as well as other animals, Stevens developed the concept of the X-Y determination system, which stated that female offspring were determined by two large sex chromosomes (XX) and male offspring by a large and small sex chromosome (XY). Around this time, fellow geneticist Edmund Beecher Wilson also discovered the same findings in his independent research, but because Stevens was a female, she was discriminated against and thus, Wilson received all the credit.

Home Security System – Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the first closed circuit TV security system in 1966. African American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown contributed to a safer society with her invention of the first home security system.

Her invention was the first closed-circuit television security system and paved the way for modern home security systems used today.

In 1966, Brown, along with the assistance of her husband, invented a security system which consisted of four peepholes, a sliding camera, television monitors, and two-way microphones. These items created a closed-circuit television system for surveillance also known as CCTV. With multiple peepholes, the sliding camera was able to capture images of people who were different heights.

The two-way microphones allowed Brown to communicate with the person outside. She also had a remote that would allow her to unlock the door at a safer distance. Lastly, she could press an emergency button that would send an alarm to police or security. In 1969, Brown and her husband received a patent for the invention under the U.S. Patent No. 3,482,037.

Her invention formed a system that is still relevant in today’s society with use in places such as banks, office buildings, and apartment complexes.

Not all of the female inventors on this list received attention for their work in their lifetime, or were able to market their inventions. But all of them contributed innovations that helped advance technology in their respective fields.

List of Inventions and Discoveries by Women

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