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International Women’s Day | Innovative Industry Inventions

International Women's Day Blog Header

International Women’s Day |Innovative Industry Inventions

Tomorrow (March 8th) is international women’s day! In celebration, we here at Hercules SLR would like to take this week’s blog to talk about some of the amazing women who have made contributions to the industries we serve.

We have compiled 8 extraordinary women throughout history whose inventions have made impacts on industries including, transportation, construction, marine, health & safety, fire prevention, and so many more – whether that be directly or indirectly. We are certain there are so many more notable women that have made significate contributions to the industrial world, but today we’re starting by shining a light on these few!

1. Windshield Wipers – Invented by Mary Anderson

What do you do to pass the time when stuck in traffic? Listen to music? Maybe put on your favorite podcast? Well, when female inventor Mary Anderson got stuck in New York City traffic due to drivers needing to repeatedly get out of their cars to clear snow off their windshield, she thought of an invention that would forever change the way we safely operate motor vehicles. She thought, what if there were a sort of blade that could wipe off the windshield without the need to exit the car? When Mary Anderson returned home to Birmingham she made a sketch of her device, wrote a description, and applied for a patent.

The patent stated that the wiper would be used by a handle inside the car, that’s easily removable, “thus leaving nothing to mar the usual appearance of the car during fair weather,” as stated on the official patent. This patent was filed in June of 1903 and rewarded in November of the same year, referred to at the time as a “Window Cleaning Device”. However, when trying to garner interest from manufacturing firms to have her device be put into production, she was always turned down. Many believe this was the case because she was a very independent woman acting with no relationship to a father, husband or son. Though she didn’t end up making any money off her invention, she is now recognized for her contribution to the modern-day windshield wiper!

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2. Geobond Invented by Patricia Billings

Who says you can’t be a scientist and an artist? Patricia Billings, sculptor by trade, became frustrated at her creations taking months to create just to be ruined by accidentally being bumped into and shattering. After eight years of experimenting in her basement, in 1997, she eventually came to her solution which was the creation of Geobond. Although it started as a crack and shatter-resistant sculptor material she eventually discovered the material was heat resistant, with the ability to withstand temperatures over 6,500 degrees! An incredible leap forward in fire protection and prevention.

After patenting her creation, she began immediately selling the Geobond plaster as an alternative to the material asbestos. Asbestos, used in construction for its heat resistant, strong and insulating characteristics, has also been shown to cause cancer, while Geobond is fire-resistant, virtually indestructible AND non-toxic. Today, Geobond is still the main building plaster available in the United States and Patricia has remained at the top of her company into her 80s – What a rockstar!

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3. Kevlar- Stephanie Kwolek

Poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide, branded Kevlar, was invented by female Polish-American chemist Stephaine Kwolek while working for DuPont in anticipation of a gasoline shortage. In 1964 she and her group was tasked with searching for a new lightweight strong fiber to use to create a light, but strong, tires. When she first successfully worked with the polymers that lead to Kevlar, the technician saw no potential in her findings and was going to throw them away, but Stephanie Kwolek persuaded him to test her solution and he has amazed to find the fiber did not break.

By 1971, modern Kevlar was introduced off the back of Stephanie Kwolek’s discovery, however, she was not very involved in developing the applications of Kevlar – but that’s to be expected as her expertise was in the science!

Fun fact: Kevlar’s first commercial used was as a replacement for steel in racing tires!

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4. Long Cycle-Life Nickel-Hydrogen Battery Invented by OlgaGonzalez-Sanabria

in 1979 Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria, chemical engineer, joined NASA, where she worked for almost 30 years. Olga is best known for her role in developing long-life nickel hydrogen batteries that help power the International Space Station’s (ISS) power systems. The ISS rotates the earth every 90 minutes and for a third of this time, it has no direct sunlight. These long-life, high power batteries allow the station to be powered during this time when the solar cells are not able to do so.

While many people may not be aware of Olga Gonzalez-Sanabria and her invention’s contributions, long cycle-life nickel-hydrogen batteries have enabled so many innovations to happen on the ISS including contributing to global water purification programs, improving eye surgery, pioneering new breast cancer detection technology and enabled the world to better monitor climate change!

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5. Home Security System – Invented by Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown was working as a nurse, and like most nurses, did not work regular 9-5 hours. She found herself home alone at odd hours of the day and felt concerned. The crime rate in her neighborhood increase and police response time was notoriously low, so Marie wanted a way to feel less vulnerable.

Working with her husband, who was an electronics technician, the two designed a home security system. One of Marie’s main concerns what needing to answer the door alone, so they began by mounting a camera that was connected to a monitor added to her kitchen cabinet and bedroom, that could move up and down looking through four different peepholes depending on the height of the individual. If the homeowner was concerned about the person at the door, a button could be pushed that would sound an alarm notifying a security firm, neighborhood watchman or a nearby neighbor and if it was a friendly face, another button could be pushed to unlock the door. A patent for this was filed in August of 1966, and today brown’s patent is referenced by 13 subsequent inventors who trace their own security systems back to some element of her and her husband’s!

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6. Fire Escape – Invented by Anna Connelly

In the 19th century, apartment buildings were beginning to add floors, multi-level factories were starting to pop up and public buildings were getting bigger. These buildings were often made of wood, so if a fire started, they burned quickly. At the time, fire department ladders could only reach 4 floors, so it was difficult if not impossible to aid people any higher then this.

In an attempt to solve this issue, Anna Connelly designed an iron-railed fire escape bridge that would be installed to connect the rooftops of neighboring buildings. This allowed for people trapped on top floors to travel up to the roof, cross over and then down using the staircase of the neighboring building. This was patented in 1887 and is thought to be the first of many fire escape systems that continued to improve into the modern versions we have today!

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7. Life Raft – Invented by Maria Beasley

At age 44 Maria Beasley left her career as a dressmaker a became a “serial inventor”. Her first patent was in 1878 for a barrel-hooping machine that spead up the manufacturing of barrels, allowing for 1,500 barrels a day. She then went on to invent other things including foot warmers, cooking pans and anti-derailment devices for trains, but her most renowned was her life raft design in 1882.

Before Maria Beasley’s design, rafts were simply made out of planks of wood, but her design was fire-proof, compact, safe, easy to launch and featured protective guard railings. These rafts were the ones on board the Titanic and were responsible for saving 706 lives!

Maria Beasley’s design was one of the first innovations in offshore safety, which has come such a long way since 1878. If you’re ever in the market for some modern-day sea safety gear, check out Hercules SLR’s sister company Spartan Marine!

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8. Chocolate Chip Cookies – Invented by Ruth Wakefield

While this invention may not draw quite as a direct correlation to the advancement of the industrial industry…we all have to take snack breaks right? It can be argued that the invention of the chocolate chip cookie brought with it advancements in all industries, because who isn’t just a little bit happier and productive after a sweet treat?

It’s difficult to imagine a world without chocolate chip cookies, but who knew something so perfect was actually created completely by accident? In 1930 Ruth Wakefield and her husband, Kenneth, ran an Inn called the Toll House Inn. Ruth was a dietician and food lecturer, so she prepared all the food for the guests at the inn. One night, she decided to make a batch of Chocolate butter Drop Do Cookies, a popular old colonial recipe, but when she started to bake she released she was out of baker’s chocolate. Ruth decided to chop up a block of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate that had been given to her (by Andrew Nestle himself!) and expected that the chocolate would melt and disperse through the cookie dough as regular baking chocolate would. But, of course they didn’t and it resulted in the creation of the chocolate chip cookie!

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Happy international women’s day to all the hardworking women breaking down stereotypes and achieving amazing things in the industrial sector. Thank you for making the strides you do each and every day, we at Hercules Group of Companies recognize and celebrate your accomplishments despite historical basis working against you.

We have some pretty amazing women working within the Hercules Group of Companies that we’d also like to recognize! Below we have linked a a couple of their profiles so you can learn more about their roles here, career advice, what they love about the rigging industry and so much more!