Female Inventors – Past and Present

Female Inventors – Past and Present
by Susan McGhee
Content Specialist Lead – DWPI Pharma and GENESEQ
IP and Standards

This article is part of an ongoing series from Clarivate Analytics celebrating women in STEM with profiles of female inventors, scientists, researchers, and corporate leaders featured in Derwent, Web of Science, BioWorld, and Publons. See more articles in this series, or follow our online campaign using #WomenAtClarivate.

There are quite a few female inventors from history who have patented inventions that we wouldn’t want to live without.

Where would we be without windscreen wipers on our cars (first patented by Mary Anderson, 1903), paper bags (Margaret Knight, inventor of the paper-bag making machine, 1871), or (for some parents!) the disposable nappy (Valerie Hunter Gordon, 1949)? Where would we be without e-books? The mechanical precursor to the electronic book was patented by Angela Ruiz Robles in 1949 (Spanish patent 190,698). Consider also the improved quality of movies filmed with non-reflecting camera lenses made of ‘invisible’ glass, another female invention (Katharine Burr Blodgett, 1940)?  We also tip our hats to the prolific inventor Beulah Louise Henry (also known as ‘Lady Edison’) who held over 49 patents some of which, whilst not perhaps ‘essential’, include useful and entertaining items like the vacuum ice-cream freezer (US1037762A) and the inflatable poodle-dog doll (Henry, 1927). All of these inventions were patented prior to Derwent World Patents Index coverage so are not included therein.

But what about more recent inventions? Who are the famous, or not so famous, female inventors who are covered within Derwent World Patents Index:

  • Stephanie Kwolek, who whilst working for DuPont, developed Kevlar®. Kevlar® is the registered trade mark for a para-aramid synthetic fiber which has a high tensile strength-to-weight ratio. The material was first commercially used in the early 1970s as a replacement for steel in racing tires, but is currently used in many other applications ranging from musical instruments to bulletproof vests. US patents US3888965A and US3951914A, published in 1975 and 1976 respectively, detail preparation of the poly-aramid [poly(1,4-benzamide) and its copolymers] and its treatment to increase initial modulus and reduce the orientation angle of the undrawn fibers. The disclosure section of US3888965A details how the fibers can be used in a number of applications including skis, bows, mechanical belts, industrial hoses and as protective clothing.
  • Dr. Flossie Wong-Staal, another scientist who has completed ground-breaking work and holds a number of patents which are covered within Derwent World Patents Index. Dr. Wong-Staal was the first scientist to clone HIV and determine the function of its genes. Genetic mapping of the virus made it possible to develop HIV tests. Relevant patents from within Derwent World Patents Index include EP173529A1, WO1994026877A1, WO1996036705A1, US5670361A and US5811275A which detail methods for diagnosis & treatment of the virus. More recently, Dr. Wong-Staal’s research has moved to a hepatitis C (HCV) therapeutics focus, and she holds a number of patents with her co-inventors including WO2006019429A2, WO2008005769A2, WO2008021745A2, WO2009103022A1 and US20110117055A1.
  • Ann Tsukamoto, the co-patentee of a process to isolate the human stem cell – EP451611A2 (Human hematopoietic stem cell). Stem cells are located in bone marrow and serve as the foundation for the growth of red and white blood cells. The ability to isolate these cells may serve in the understanding and treatment of lymphomas, leukemias and other neoplastic conditions e.g. breast cancer, and for use in bone marrow transplants and gene therapy. A number of other patents are held by Ann Tsukamoto and her colleagues on this technology including WO1996015227A1, US5643741A, WO1997048815A2 and US5914108A.

Finally, let’s not forget Mary Kies who received the first United States patent granted to a woman way back in 1809 for a method of weaving straw with silk or thread and which gave a boost to the nation’s hat industry.

So let us doff our hats to all female inventors, past and present.

Follow the Clarivate Analytics blog series celebrating women in STEM: Women at Clarivate 2018.

Learn more about Derwent World Patents Index, from Clarivate Analytics.

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