Female inventors you need to know about


Most people might struggle if asked to name a female inventor or an invention made by a woman. In celebration of International Women’s Day, we’re looking at a selection of inventions that we simply couldn’t live without – and the brilliant women behind these.   

Hedy Lamarr - various

Lamarr was quite simply brilliant. A talented film star, Lamarr’s hobby was “tinkering” with existing inventions and coming up with new ones. Her most famous patent application (filed in the name of her then-husband, Markey) related to a system to prevent blocking of the radio signals used to control torpedoes. The wireless technology behind this invention has led to the development of Bluetooth®, GPS and WiFi. Lamarr also invented an improved traffic light, a fizzy drink and is known to have worked on aeroplane designs.


Mary Anderson, Windscreen Wiper

When Mary Anderson invented the windscreen wiper in 1903, the motor industry was in its infancy. Noticing that motorists had to continually pull over to clear their windscreens while driving, Anderson invented the rubber-bladed windscreen wiper that is an essential feature of every modern car. 


Margaret Knight, Square-based paper bags

The mainstay of takeaway outlets around the world, it’s hard to imagine a time when square-based paper bags didn’t exist. Noticing that the traditional “flat” paper bag wasn’t useful to carry anything that needed to be kept upright, Knight invented square-based paper bags in the 1860’s, obtaining a patent for the machinery needed to make these in 1871.   


Dr Shirley Ann Jackson, Telecommunications

Strictly speaking, as a theoretical physicist Dr Jackson didn’t invent a “thing”. However, her ground-breaking research paved the way for others to develop technologies that define the modern age including touch-tone telephones, solar cells, fiber optic cables, caller ID and call waiting.


Mandy Haberman, The Anywayup® Cup

As parents will know, the Anywayup® cup is a spill-proof drinking cup for babies and small children. Haberman faced a battle to uphold her patent as it was attacked for being “too simple” (and therefore obvious/not inventive). By highlighting an unmet market need and her resulting commercial success, Haberman was able to save her case, and an awful lot of carpets too!

Other notable inventions made by women include the dishwasher, the disposable nappy, the US-style fire escape, the chocolate chip cookie, the rear-view mirror, the first computer software, Monopoly®, the car heater, the life raft, syringes that can be operated using one hand, Scotchgard®, the electric refrigerator, the ice-cream maker, CCTV, central heating, Kevlar®, and, according to historians, beer.  

So, this International Women’s Day, join us in celebrating the achievements of women in tech, both past and present. 

For further information, please contact Victoria Barker, Alicia Nash or your usual Kilburn & Strode advisor.