We know that we should celebrate women every day. But we also know that we don’t really do that, do we?
Right now, some of you are smelling the roses and many of you are proudly marching and protesting for equality, against misogyny and femicide.
With all that, we should remember that millions of women worldwide lack basic human rights, including digital access.
Paradoxically or not, some great female minds were behind some techy, sciency stuff we use every single day despite the constant scrutiny they faced in STEM fields. This is an ode to them.
Let’s celebrate and congratulate women for their century-old fight to make our world safer and better.
Fire escape / Anna Connelly, 1887
Anna Connelly invented an external metal staircase, the very first fire escape. Connelly’s design made buildings safer by preventing people from falling during an emergency. Her design also allowed firefighters to haul water to specific areas of the structure. In addition to saving lives, her invention also precipitated one of the first New York City building codes, which required residential buildings to have a secondary means of escape for emergencies.
Bullet-proof fiber / Stephanie Kwolek, 1966
While searching for strong but lightweight plastics to use in car tires, DuPont researcher Stephanie Kwolek discovered what would become known as Kevlar. This revolutionary fiber has saved countless lives in the form of bullet-proof vests and is also used in numerous applications, such as bridge cables, canoes, and frying pans.
Life raft / Maria Beasley, 1882
Though Beasley had already made a fortune on a barrel-hooping machine patent, this serial inventor went on to design an improved life raft with guard rails that were fireproof and foldable for easy storage. Her life rafts were used on the Titanic and saved over 700 lives.
Home security system / Marie Van Brittan Brown, 1969
With New York City police being notoriously slow to respond to calls in her neighborhood, Brown took matters into her own hands and created a home security system with closed-circuit television (CCTV).
Caller ID and call-waiting / Shirley Ann Jackson, 1970’s
Shirley Ann Jackson was an award-winning theoretical physicist. Her contributions to the field of telecommunications led to the invention of numerous technologies, including caller ID and call-waiting, as well as solar cells and fiber optic cables.
Word processor / Evelyn Berezin, 1971
In addition to creating the first computerized airline booking system, Berezin created the world’s first computerized standalone word processor for business use. Realizing that because of her gender, she wouldn’t be able to move up in the industry, she also founded her own company, Redactron, to get her inventions on the market.
Software that made the moon landing possible / Margaret Hamilton, 1969
Margaret Hamilton was the programmer who developed the onboard flight software for NASA’s Apollo program, software that made it possible for Armstrong to land on the moon. Through this, Hamilton assisted in developing priority and asynchronous scheduling software that let computers on board prioritize vital tasks. Without this innovative software, there was a big chance that the mission would have been a failure.
Space rocket propulsion system / Yvonne Brill, 1974
Brill’s groundbreaking invention, the hydrazine resistojet, streamlined various rocket propulsion systems, which all required different types of fuel and added prohibitive weight, into a lighter system with a single fuel source. Monopropellant thrusters are now standard and are why we have self-propelling satellites.
Hydyne rocket fuel / Mary Sherman Morgan, 1957
Explorer I, the first satellite ever launched into orbit by the United States, owed its success to Hydyne, the improved rocket fuel that Morgan created during her time as a technical lead at North American Aviation’s Rocketdyne Division.
Blissymbol printer / Rachel Zimmerman, 1984
At only 12 years old, Zimmerman invented software that allows people with speech disabilities to communicate non-verbally by using symbols on a touchpad that are then translated into written language.
Laser cataract surgery / Patricia Bath, 1986
Bath’s patented Laserphaco Probe allows doctors to dissolve cataracts quickly and painlessly before applying new lenses to patients’ eyes. This technology is used worldwide to prevent blindness due to cataracts.
Stem cell isolation / Ann Tsukamoto, 1991
Ann Tsukamoto co-patented the process of isolating human stem cells in bone marrow in 1991. It was a significant breakthrough in cancer research and has already saved thousands of lives since its development.
Immunosuppressive drug / Gertrude Belle Elion, 1957
During her long career as a pharmacologist, Elion helped develop countless drugs that are used in the treatment of AIDS, malaria, herpes, and cancer. Along with George Herbert Hitchings, she invented the first immunosuppressive drug, Azathioprine, which was initially used for chemotherapy patients, and eventually for organ transplants.
Anti-fungal drug / Rachel Fuller Brown and Elizabeth Lee Hazen, 1950
These two New York Department of Health lab researchers discovered Nystatin, one of the first effective anti-fungal medicines, by collaborating on experiments through the mail.
Beer / Sumeria and Mesopotamian women, 4,000 BCE
One of the most popular drinks nowadays is also one of the oldest and was indeed created by women. In modern-day Iran, in Sumeria and Mesopotamia almost 7,000 years ago, only women were allowed to drink beer and operate breweries for centuries. They were also the only ones who could run taverns or brew the drink due to their excellent skills. It was also believed that beer was a goddess Ninkasi’s gift and not from a male god in many ancient societies.
GIF animation / Lisa Gelobter, 1987
Steve Wilhite and his team are credited for having created the bitmap image format while working for Compuserve in 1987, Gelobter, a computer scientist laid the foundation program by developing the animation used to produce GIF images, forever changing the face of communication. Lisa Gelobster also helped pave the way for online video and groundbreaking video technology such as Joost, Brightcove, Shockwave, and Hulu.