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Women Who Changed the World

Women Who Changed the World

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We sometimes don’t give enough recognition to women who have helped change the course of history with their scientific discoveries or engineering inventions. Therefore, we are taking a step back to appreciate a few women who have helped change the world.

1. Margaret E. Knight, The Brown Paper Bag (1868). Knight’s invention was a machine that folded and glued paper into the flat-bottomed paper bag we all know and love. Despite a setback of her design being stolen, she was able to patent it in 1871 and established the Eastern Paper Bag Co.

2. Mary Anderson, Windshield Wipers (1903). In 1902, Anderson visited New York City and noticed a trolley operator was driving with the front windshield open due to sleet continuously icing it over. This observation led her to patent the first spring-loaded windshield wiper. It took car manufacturers two decades to come around to the idea, but once Cadillac adopted it, the rest became history.

3. Alice Ball, Leprosy Treatment (1915). At the young age of 23, this chemist was able to discover an effective treatment for leprosy using the oil of the chaulmoogra tree. Another chemist, Arthur Dean, briefly tried to take credit for her work but he was eventually outed by Ball’s advisor and mentor, Dr. Harry T. Hollmann.

4. Irene Curie, Artificial Radioactivity (1935). Curie followed in the footsteps of her mother, Marie Curie, and became the second woman to ever win the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Her discovery of artificial radioactivity was adopted in the medical field and quickly grew from there.

5. Katherine Johnson, Orbital Mechanics of Manned Space Flights (1950s). Johnson is best known for being the mathematician whose work was pivotal in launching the U.S. space shuttle program. Her manual calculations were so precise that they are still being used in plans for a mission to Mars. President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. She was also featured in the 2016 movie film Hidden Figures.

6. Marie Van Brittan Brown, Home Security System (1969). Van Brittan Brown and her husband, Albert, are responsible for the invention of the home security system. This came as a result of rising crime rates and slow police response in their neighborhood in Queens. They devised a radio-controlled wireless system that would send images via a camera to a monitor within a home.

7. Ann Tsukamoto, Stem Cell Isolation (1991). Tsukamoto and her colleagues were the first scientists to isolate and identify blood-forming stem cells. Her discovery helped pioneer the understanding of circulatory systems of cancer patients.

8. Ruzena Bajcsy, Robotics and AI (2000s). Bajcsy has led research into AI and machine perception. She has helped create advancements in robotics and computer vision, and has authored more than 225 journal articles, 66 technical reports and 25 book chapters.

9. Olga D. Gonzalez-Sanabria, Long Cycle-Life Nickel Hydrogen Batteries (1987). Gonzalez-Sanabria played an important role in developing long-lasting batteries that currently power the International Space Station. She has won the NASA Medal for Outstanding Leadership and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal.

10. Donna Strickland, Laser Beam Intensity (2018). Strickland is now the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in physics thanks to her help in advancing the science of lasers. Strickland, along with Dr. Gerard Mourou of France, created the technology for short laser pulses that magnify laser beam intensity. This technology is now used in corrective eye surgeries as well as cancer targeting therapy.

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