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WHEN it comes to technological innovations, women are not celebrated as much as men. I had to write about this to show that women have contributed a lot to technological innovations – I call them the unsung heroes.

We have heard of famous inventors such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and many others but do you know Ada Lovelace or Marie Van Brittan Brown?  Let’s dive into the top 12 powerful women and find out.

Ada Lovelace – First Computer Programmer

Each time we talk about computers it’s usually a man behind it, well guess what?  Ada Lovelace is considered the world’s first computer programmer.

She was a British mathematician and writer.  Her work in computer science has brought about high end languages, search algorithms and other inventions in the field. The modern language Ada, an object-oriented high-level computer programming language is named in her honour.

Letitia Geer – Medical Syringe

Imagine a hospital without a syringe. Letitia Geer invented the Medical Syringe in 1899, her patent for an “In a hand-syringe.”

Her invention had a combination of a cylinder, a piston and an operating-rod which was easier to use and allowed medical personnel to use a one hand to hold and operate the syringe. Thanks to Letitia Geer.

Stephanie Kwolek – Bulletproof vest and tyres

Did you know that it’s a woman behind the tougher-than-steel fibre in the bulletproof vest, vehicle tyres and protective gear, invented in 1965? It was initially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires. Most people hear of bulletproof vests and buy vehicle tyres without understanding the person behind it.

Dr. Shirley Jackson – Research that led to the invention of all things telecommunication

Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973.

The physicist conducted a breakthrough scientific research with subatomic particles that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fibre optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

She did this research while working at Bell Laboratories. Just imagine how much we would have missed without such a woman.

Nancy Johnson – The Ice Cream Maker

Who doesn’t love a nice cold ice-cream on a hot sunny day?  Well thanks to Nancy Johnson who patented a design for a hand-operated ice cream maker in 1843; to this day we still use the ice-cream maker thanks to Nancy Johnson.

Maria Telkes – The first 100 percent solar powered house

This lady, Maria Telkes, created the first thermoelectric power generator in 1947, designed the first solar heating system for the Dover Sun House in Dover, Massachusetts, and the first thermoelectric refrigerator in 1953.

Marie Van Brittan Brown – Home security system

This will probably shock you but did you know that the first home security system was invented by a Black nurse? Marie Van Brittan Brown?  This woman is recognised for coming up with a home security system.

Her idea came about due to increased crime rate in her neighbourhood in Queens, New York. This system alerted her of strangers at her door and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible. It included peepholes, camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone; later on an alarm button was added to help alert the police.

Her work laid the groundwork for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, home security systems, push-button alarm triggers, crime prevention, and traffic monitoring.

Brown received an award from the National Science Committee for her truly innovative idea. Her idea became the groundwork for all modern home security systems.

Lisa Gelobter – Gif

You know those animated Gif images on the web, I call them dancing pics, well, we have Lisa Gelobter to thank for. She was involved in the advent of Shockwave, a technology that formed the beginning of web animation.

She also played a major role in the emergency of online video.

Thanks to her we can create memes out of them.

Mary Anderson – Windshield Wipers

Imagine having a vehicle without windshield wipers, Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers after noticing that the streetcar drivers had to open the windows when it rained, in order to see.

She then invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that is operated by the driver in the car by pushing a lever; she received a patent for her car-window cleaning device in 1903.

Dr. Patricia Bath – Laserphaco

Patricia Bath invented the Laserphaco Probe and became the first black female doctor to secure a medical patent in 1988. The laserphaco probe is a tool that corrects cataracts during eye surgery. Cateracts are an eye condition that can lead to blindness, and Bath’s tool provided a less invasive, safer method of removing them.

The Heater

We do enjoy the heater in cold seasons thanks to Alice H. Parker.  As if that wasn’t enough, we also have Margret Wilcox who invented the Car Heater – two different but great women. invented in 1893. The system later became inadequate for temperature control but other inventors bettered


It’s believed that women started beer, nearly 7, 000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Sumeria.  Women were the only ones allowed to brew beer because of the exceptional skills.

Ancient Finland also credits the creation of beer to women, In England, ale was traditionally made in the home by women. They were known as Brewster’s or ale-wives and the sale of the drink provided a valuable income for many households.

For comments and contributions or if you have a question or topic you would like us to cover in this column, email me on Text or WhatsApp +260977258265.



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