Thursday, 8 March 2012



-Swapna Sundar

On occasion of International women's Day, I thought I could highlight some important inventions made the women, which make our lives easier. I have chosen recent, universal and interesting cutting edge technologies. By no means comprehensive, this list is only indicative of the contribution of women to science and invention.

Laser assisted cataract surgery: Dr Patricia Bath's passionate dedication to the treatment and prevention of blindness letter to develop the Cataract Laserphaco Probe.The probe patented in 1988 (#4,744,360), was designed to use the power of a laser to quickly and painlessly vaporize cataracts from patients' eyes, replacing the more common method of using a grinding, drill-like device to remove the afflictions.Patricia Bath's was for a method for removing cataract lenses that transformed eye surgery by using a laser device making the procedure more accurate.Patricia Bath also holds patents for her invention in Japan, Canada, and Europe.

Disposable diapers: unhappy with leaky, cloth diapers that had to be washed, Marion Donovan-a young mother-invented the "boater", a plastic covering for cloth diapers. Marion Donovan made her first Boater using a shower curtain.A year later she carried her ideas further. Using disposable absorbent material and combining it with her Boater design, Marion Donovan created the first convenient waterproof diaper. Donovan was granted four patents for her diaper cover, including the use of plastic snaps as opposed to safety pins. Unable to sell or license diaper patent, which manufacturers thought would be too expensive to produce, she went into business for herself and later sold the company for US$ 1 million.
Donovan was granted 20 patents from 1951 to 1996. These included woman-related essentials and other convenience items, such as a facial tissue box, storage container box, towel dispenser, hosiery clamp, envelope and writing sheet combination, closet organizer, and dental flossing products. In 1985, she invented the product DentaLoop, a two-ply dental floss that eliminated the need to wrap the dental floss around one's finger for use.

Kevlar: Many police officers over their lives to Stephanie Kwolek, who invented in patented Kevlar-the material used in bullet-proof vests- in 1966. Kwolek’s research with high performance chemical compounds for the DuPont Company led to the development of a synthetic material called Kevlar which is five times stronger than the same weight of steel, does not rust nor corrode and is extremely lightweight. Other applications of the compound include underwater cables, brake linings, space vehicles, boats, parachutes, skis, and building materials. She would ultimately obtain 28 patents during her 40-year tenure as a research scientist.

The Barbie Doll: The Barbie Doll was invented by Ruth Handler who named her after her daughter Barbara. In the first year (1959), 300,000 Barbie dolls were sold.To date, over 70 fashion designers have made clothes for Mattel, the company that manufactures Barbie, using over 105 million yards of fabric.In 1965, Barbie first had bendable legs, and eyes that open and shut. In 1967, a Twist 'N Turn Barbie was released that had a moveable body that twisted at the waist.

Computerised telephone switching system: In 1954, Erna Schneider Hoover as a researcher at Bell laboratories in New Jersey started work as a researcher at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, created the first computerised telephone switching system which could monitor incoming calls and automatically adjust the cause acceptance rate. This helped eliminate overloading problems. The principles of Erna Schneider Hoover's design are still used today. She was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued (Patent #3,623,007, Nov. 23, 1971).

Disposable cell-phone: In November of 1999 Randice-Lisa "Randi" Altschul was issued a series of patents for the world's first disposable cell phone. Trademarked the Phone-Card-Phone®, the device is the thickness of three credit cards and made from recycled paper products. This is a real cell phone (outgoing messages only) with 60 minutes of calling time and a hands free attachment. You can add more minutes or throw the device away after your calling time is used up. However, with the planned additional magnetic strip the cell phone would double as a credit card, swipeable for purchases with free airtime credits as a bonus. The retail price of the invention should average twenty dollars, with a two or three dollar rebate for returning the phone instead of trashing it.

The 2" by 3" cell phone will be manufactured by Altschul'sDieceland Technologies. The entire phone body, touch pad and circuit board will be made of paper substrate. The paper-thin cell phone uses an elongated flexible circuit which will be one piece with the body of the phone, part of the patented STTTM technology. The ultra thin circuitry is made by applying metallic conductive inks to paper which becomes the body of the unit, and also becomes its own built-in tamper-proof system because as soon as you cut it open, you break the circuits and the phone goes dead.

White out: Bette Nesmith Graham, a Dallas secretary and a single mother, used her own kitchen blender to mix up her first batch of liquid paper or white out, a substance used to cover up mistakes made on paper while typing.

Bette Nesmith Graham put some tempera waterbased paint, colored to match the stationery she used, in a bottle and took her watercolor brush to the office. She used this to correct her typing mistakes. Soon another secretary saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote "Mistake Out" on a label, and gave it to her friend. Soon all the secretaries in the building were asking for some, too.

In 1956, Bette Nesmith Graham started the Mistake Out Company (later renamed Liquid Paper) from her North Dallas home. After getting fired from a job, she devoted herself to selling Liquid Paper, and business boomed.

By 1967, it had grown into a million dollar business. In 1968, she moved into her own plant and corporate headquarters, automated operations, and had 19 employees. That year Bette Nesmith Graham sold one million bottles. In 1975, Liquid Paper moved into a 35,000-sq. ft., international headquarters building in Dallas. The plant had equipment that could produce 500 bottles a minute. In 1976, the Liquid Paper Corporation turned out 25 million bottles. Its net earnings were $1.5 million. The company spent $1 million a year on advertising, alone. Graham died in 1980, six months after selling her corporation for $47.5 million.
Petroleum refining filter: Edith Flanigen retired in 1994, having earned 108 U.S. patents in the fields of petroleum research and product development.

In 1956, Flanigen began working on the developing technology of molecular sieves, crystal compounds that work like strainers at the molecular level which could be used to filter and separate components of very complex mixtures. They can also work as catalysts for chemical reactions. The sieves she developed would have a wide range of critical applications in the petroleum and petrochemical refining industries. In particular, her development of the substance known as “zeolite Y” gave the world a sieve that has the ability break crude oil down into parts, a necessary step that allows the various parts to be used commercially. For example, her zeolite Y sieve is able to optimize conversion of crude oil to gasoline. This sieve helps to make oil refining cleaner, safer and more efficient.

Flanigen has said that one of her strengths throughout her career has been her ability to discover a new material and see it through to commercialization. Her sieves are also used in water purification and environmental cleanup and can be used to make ethylene and propylene, which are elements necessary to the manufacture of some plastics.

In addition to her work on molecular sieves, Flanigen also co-invented a synthetic emerald, which Union Carbide produced and sold for many years. The emeralds were used mainly in masers (predecessors to lasers) and were even used in jewelry for a time, in a line marketed as the “Quintessa Collection.” Flanigen also pioneered the use of mid-infrared spectroscopy for analyzing zeolite structures.

Non-reflective glass:
Katherine Blodgett’s research on monomolecular coatings with Nobel Prize winning Dr. Irving Langmuir led her to a revolutionary discovery. She discovered a way to apply the coatings layer by layer to glass and metal. The thin films, which naturally reduced glare on reflective surfaces, when layered to a certain thickness, would completely cancel out the reflection from the surface underneath. This resulted in the world’s first 100% transparent or invisible glass. Katherine Blodgett’s patented film and process (1938) has been used for many purposes including limiting distortion in eyeglasses, microscopes, telescopes, camera and projector lenses. 
Katherine Blodgett received U.S patent #2,220,660 on March 16, 1938 for the "Film Structure and Method of Preparation" or invisible, nonreflective glass.  Katherine Blodgett also inventec a special color gauge for measuring the thickness of these films of glass, since 35,000 layers of film only added up to the thickness of a sheet of paper.

The following link has the name of Indian women inventors who have won the WIPO gold medal

A more comprehensive list of women inventors

No comments:

Post a Comment