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Top Ten Lady Inventors

Top Ten Lady Inventors

We've been looking back through the history books recently and have been struck by how many ladies there were that we'd never heard of but whose inventions completely changed the world. We've done some serious whittling of the list, and here are our ten favourite lady inventors.

(click on the links for the inside story)

Hypatia of Alexandria
Credited with the invention of the hydrometer, Hypatia was the first female scientist whose life and works are well documented. She wrote extensively on mathematics, philosophy and astronomy before being murdered by Christian fanatics.

Ada Lovelace
Ada King, Countess of Lovelace was an early computer pioneer. Working with Charles Babbage on his Analytical Engine she devised a method for computing a series of numbers – it was the world’s first ever computer programme.

Margaret Knight
It’s not something you would immediately think about as being an important invention, but that's because it's so commonplace. Having founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870, Margaret Knight was the architect of the grocery bag.

Lillian Gilbreth
The 'mother of modern management' Lillian Gilbreth didn’t simply invent a number of devices that are now part of our everyday lives, but she introduced a whole new concept of managing industry by seeking the “one best way”.

Katherine Blodgett
A woman of many firsts, Katherine Blodgett pretty much did it all and saw it all. A chemical pioneer, she created the world's first non-reflective glass, poison gas absorbents and even a method for de-icing aircraft wings.

Hedy Lamarr
The most beautiful woman in Hollywood, star of the silver screen and the inventor of a torpedo guidance system twenty years before its time. Was Hedy Lamarr too good to be true? Yes. Yes we think she probably was.

Grace Hopper
Far from a being one trick pony, Rear Admiral Dr Grace Hopper didn't just invent the first compiler for a computer program and one of the first computer languages, there was a whole lot more. No wonder she's known as Amazing Grace.

Stephanie Kwolek
As a girl she wanted to be a fashion designer, Stephanie Kwolek ended up inventing one of the most important, but least fashionable, items of clothing. She was first to produce Kevlar, the super strong material of bulletproof vests.

Erna Hoover
Awarded one of the first software patents, Erna Hoover was an early pioneer of computer technology. She revolutionised telecommunications by using computers to stop switchboards from overloading - work that's still important today.

Radia Perlman
The spanning tree algorithm sounds tricky, and it is. Without it, however, the Internet would be a hopeless jumble of information going nowhere in particular. Lucky for us then that Radia Perlman is a damn sight cleverer than your ordinary mortal.

Honourable mentions also go to:
  • Maria Telkes (residential solar heating systems)
  • Bette Nesmith Graham (correction fluid)
  • Sybilla Masters (corn processor)
  • Beulah Louise Henry (all sorts)
  • Ruth Handler (Barbie)
  • Mary Spaeth (multi-coloured lasers)
  • Mary Anderson (wind-screen wipers)
  • Josephine Cochran (dishwasher)
  • Helen Free (home diabetes test)
  • Amanda Jones (vacuum canning)
  • Mary Phelps Jacob (bra)

For anyone spitting feathers about the non-inclusion of Dorothy Hodgkin, Marie Curie and a host of other famous scientists, spit no more. We decided that they would be better included in a list of top discoverers instead of inventors - keep your eye out in the new year.

More great articles on the Null:

- Interesting - The people who hear colour
- We shouldn't laugh - Top 5 narcoleptic dogs
- Brag - Check our column in the Telegraph

- Weird - Robo-Einstein busts a groove
- Unsung heroes - Who invented the button?
- How it works - Wi-tricity: cordless power
- Gadgets - Weird stuff from the Null shop

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Title Image: Dora Mitsonia

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10 May 2010
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