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When you are a member of a disadvantaged group or minority, you may get a month assigned to you for special recognition. March is Women’s History Month.

In previous posts, we’ve highlighted the obstacles which are facing women in leadership and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) positions. In this post, we honor a few of the women who were STEM pioneers and patent holders for their science and technology inventions.

Amanda Jones: Inventor of the vacuum method of canning and food preservation and an oil burner, which she patented in 1880.


This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Gertrude Elion, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Gertrude Elion: A chemist who, in recognition of her important discoveries and inventions, won a Nobel Prize and was the first woman inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1991.


By Unknown - Public Domain

By Unknown – Public Domain

Hedy Lamarr: Who says you can’t have brains and beauty? Screen actress Hedy Lamarr, co-invented a “Secret Communications System” to prevent classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. This work led to their being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014. This “spread spectrum” technology was the precursor used for cellular telephones, WiFi technology and Bluetooth.


Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner – Creative Commons

Lise Meitner:  Meitner and Otto Frisch understood that the fission process, which splits the atomic nucleus of uranium into two smaller nuclei, must be accompanied by an enormous release of energy. This process is the basis of the nuclear weapons that were developed in the U.S. during World War II and used against Japan in 1945. Meitner spent most of her scientific career in Berlin, Germany where she was a physics professor and a department head at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. Of Jewish descent, she escaped into Sweden from Nazi Germany and became a Swedish citizen.

Margaret (Mattie) Knight: She invented a stop-motion device to make looms safer for workers. Her many other inventions included a numbering machine, window frame and sash, patented in 1894, and several devices relating to rotary engines, patented between 1902 and 1915. Knight’s original bag-making machine is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. She was awarded the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour by Queen Victoria in 1871.


Marie Curie, Public Domain

Marie Curie, Public Domain

Marie Curie: A world renown scientist who made glowing discoveries. If anyone knows one STEM inventor or scientist’s name, it is Marie Curie. Marie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize for physics. To this day, her papers and even her cookbook are radioactive, and those wishing to view them must wear protective gear.

Martha Coston: Signal flares that saved sailors’ lives. She was granted a patent in 1859 under her husband’s name – standard practice at the time.


Grace M. Hopper, Public Domain

Grace M. Hopper, Public Domain

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper The first computer whiz, nicknamed “Amazing Grace.” She invented the first compiler for a computer programming language and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.


Stephanie Kwolek, By Chemical Heritage Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0

Stephanie Kwolek, By Chemical Heritage Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0

Stephanie Kwolek: Kwolek was an American chemist, whose career at the DuPont company spanned over forty years and who is best known for inventing the first of a family of synthetic fibers of exceptional strength and stiffness: poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide – better known as Kevlar. In 1995 she became the fourth woman to be added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Kevlar is a super strong fiber used to make, among other things, bullet-resistant vests.

Source: Library of Congress, Women’s History Month