Stem cell isolation

Name: Anne Tsukamoto
Profession: Executive Vice President of Scientific and Strategic Alliances
Date of nvention: 1991

Tsukamoto co-patented the discovery of the properties of haematopoietic stem cells. They can be transformed and developed into all blood cells found in the bone marrow tissue and lymphatic system. Her research has provided a deeper understanding of the blood systems in cancer patients; the artificial reproduction of these stem cells paved the way for advancements in cancer treatment and ultimately a potential cure for the disease.

In 1998, Tsukamoto joined StemCells, Inc as Senior Director of Scientific Operations and has since climbed the ranks to Executive Vice President of Research and Development. During this time, Tsukamoto and her team identified and purified the human neural stem cell, as well as portions of the human liver and pancreatic cells with properties comparable to stem cells, clinically developing them for the first ever human clinical trials.

Radium and polonium

Name: Marie Curie
Profession: Physicist
Date of invention: 1898

Radium was co-discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie. Marie Curie was deeply interested in French physicist Henri Becquerel’s discovery of x-rays and transformed a storeroom into a laboratory on Paris Municipal School’s campus. She discovered that, despite external factors, a certain number of uranium atoms gave off a particular radiation intensity.

It was at this point that Marie included her husband in her findings which led to the further discovery of element 84 – polonium (named after Poland) and element 88, radium. Marie devised a method for the separation of radium from its radioactive properties which allowed for a closer study of its therapeutic properties. In 1903 she became the first female Nobel Prize winner, honouring her phenomenal discoveries. She received a second Nobel Prize in 1911, this time for chemistry.

Apgar score

Name: Virginia Apgar
Profession: Obstetrical anaesthesiologist
Date of invention: 1952

Apgar, determined from an early age to be a doctor, graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1933. In 1949 she became the first woman to become a full professor at Columbia; she left in 1959 and earned a Masters if Public Health degree from the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

Apgar studied the effects of anaesthesia on women in labour. This led to the invention of the Apgar Score, the first standardised measuring method for evaluating the condition and viability of a new-born within a minute of birth. The method received some resistance from the medical community; despite these early challenges, the Apgar Score was published successfully in 1952 and is still used today.

Spread spectrum technology

Name: Hedy Lamarr
Profession: Actress
Date of invention: 1941

Lamarr, most famous for her silver-screen acting, co-invented spread spectrum technology, better known today as wireless communication. During World War II, Austrian born Lamarr developed this technology to interfere with radio frequencies creating unbreakable codes. If intercepted by the enemy, the message would be indecipherable.

The significance of this invention was not acknowledged until years later. However, Lamarr’s innovation paved the way for wireless communications as we know it today, without which fax machines, cellular phone technology and wireless internet would not exist.

Although not recognised for her revolutionary vision at the time, Lamarr has since been honoured with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award in 1997 and is the first women to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award.


Name:Marie Van Brittan Brown
Profession: Unknown
Date of invention: 1966

Brown and her husband applied for a patency of their invention of a closed-circuit television security system in 1966. Brown grew tired of the slow-actioned police in her residential area and endeavoured to make her household, and neighbourhood, a safer place. The system consisted of a motorised camera which slid up and down enabling her to see what was happening on the exterior; a remote control-operated entrance and an audio video alarm system showed who was at the door before opening.

Not much more is known about her invention but is the backbone of all modern home-security systems used today.

Residential solar heating

Name: Maria Telkes
Profession: Biophysicist and solar energy researcher
Date of invention: 1948

Telkes was born, raised and educated in Budapest, Hungary before becoming an American citizen in 1937, the same year she received patents on her thermoelectric devices which converted solar power into electrical energy. In 1948, Telkes designed a new solar heating system which was installed in a home designed by Eleanor Raymond. Unlike earlier systems which stored heat in hot water or heated rocks, Telkes’ invention converted solar power into useable electrical energy through the crystallisation of sodium sulphate, heating up the air spaces through the walls and ceilings of buildings.

Telkes was honoured by the National Academy of Science Building Research Advisory Board in 1977 for her significant contribution to solar-heating building technology and research. Telkes retired from active research in the field in 1978 but continued to work as a research consultant.

Electrical refrigerator

Name: Florence Parpart
Profession: Inventor
Date of invention: 1914

Parpart was born in New Jersey but spent most of her life stationed between New York City and Philadelphia. Parpart patented two inventions: the first was a new and improved version of the street sweeper and the second was the modern electronic refrigerator. Prior to Parpart’s innovative electrical refrigerator, the icebox was its popular predecessor. Parpart’s fiancé was said to be a skilled electrician and assisted her in its design, making the icebox redundant to all those who had access to electricity.

Her previous entrepreneurial experience enabled Parpart to market, distribute and sell her innovation with ease. She took part in trade shows alongside her husband, developed advertising campaigns and oversaw production management of her design.

Circular saw

Name: Tabitha Babbit
Profession: Weaver
Date of invention: 1810

Babbit lived in a religious community in the 1800s which valued men and women as equals and communal labour was shared between them. While she watched two men cut wood with a two-handled saw, Babbit realised that they wasted energy going back and forth, only penetrating the wood with every second stroke.

Babbit reached the conclusion that a circular shape would be more efficient, penetrating the wood with every turn, thus conserving energy and manpower. Although it is argued that Babbit is not the original inventor of the circular saw as she never had her idea patented, she none-the-less came up with the innovation which reduced the work-load for her community, and future generations.

Windshield wiper

Name: Mary Anderson
Profession: Cattle ranch and vineyard operator and real-estate
Date of invention: 1902

Anderson was born in Alabama, USA; however, a visit to New York City in the winter of 1902 transformed her real-estate-farming background to one of history’s most forward-thinking inventors. While sitting in a trolley car on a wet day, she noticed the driver kept the window panes open because it was too difficult to see through the sleet which stuck to the glass. She then designed a hand-controlled wiper blade which could be operated by a lever within the vehicle, swiping away any water and sleet when it became too difficult for the driver to see.

Anderson struggled to sell her 17 year-long patent rights for her invention; when it expired, motor companies had already jumped on the band-wagon and windshields, using her design, became standard automobile equipment when purchasing a car.

Life raft

Name: Maria Beasley
Profession: Businesswoman
Date of invention: late 1800s

It was unusual for women in the late 1800s to be working, let alone own their own business and make a small fortune from it. Beasley was the exception to this standard; she owned her own business after patenting her barrel-making machine which manufactured wooden barrels used for food storage and wine-making.

Her fortune grew during this time due to the high demand for this produce. After her business grew and her products became well-known, Beasley began experimenting with the uses of the wooden barrels and patenting her work; she took full credit for the invention of the life raft.

Although she had many other successfully patented inventions, the life raft is among the most significant.

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