THE BLOG

Mothers of Invention

05/18/2015 05:39 pm ET | Updated May 18, 2016
Isbi Armor/Flickr

What a thrilling experience to see my friend (and nominee) Kristina Johnson inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame. She made possible the 3D technology that was first used in the movie Avatar. The first patent ever awarded to a woman occurred in 1809; prior to that point, patents were only awarded to men. Match the following "mothers of invention," all of whom have been inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, with her accomplishment:

____ 1. In 1912, received her first patent for an ice cream freezer. Referred to in the press as "Lady Edison."

____ 2. In 1809, received the first U.S. patent ever awarded to a woman.

____ 3. She received multiple honors related to her invention of Kevlar, including the National Medal of Technology and induction into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.

____ 4. Dedicated her life to developing pharmaceutical drugs after watching her beloved grandfather die a slow and painful death from cancer.

____ 5. This electrical engineer received a patent for a graphing calculator -- used to make calculations for the electric utility transmission system.

A. Mary Kies
B. Beulah Henry
C. Edith Clarke
D. Gertrude Elion
E. Stephanie Kwolek

In 1809, Mary Kies received the first U.S. patent awarded to a woman. All patents up to that point had been awarded to men only. Her patent was for a device for straw-weaving with silk or thread (we aren't sure exactly, as the patent office burned in 1836 and the patent was lost).

Called "Lady Edison" by the press, inventor Beulah Henry received her first patent in 1912 for an ice cream freezer. Credited with over 100 inventions and 49 patents, Henry's other patents included a bobbin-less sewing machine and umbrellas with covers that could be changed to match the owner's outfits.

The first woman to receive a degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first woman electrical engineering professor in the U.S., Edith Clarke received a patent for a graphing calculator. This device was used to make calculations related to the electrical transmission system and was developed during the years she was employed by General Electric. In 1947, she was one of the first woman fellows of what today is called the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. In 1954, she received the Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers Achievements Award "in recognition of her many original contributions to stability theory and circuit analysis."

Originally planning to pursue a medical career, Stephanie Kwolek became so intrigued with her research at DuPont that she spent the rest of her career there. Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her invention of Kevlar. At the induction, she was escorted to the stage by a policeman whose Kevlar bulletproof vest had saved his life. Kevlar is used in hundreds of products including armor for our troops and radial tires. The holder of many patents, Kwolek has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame and was an advocate of mentoring women and educating children about science.

Nobel Laureate Gertrude Elion received many patents for her work. The recipient of the National Medal of Science and the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Elion was determined to develop pharmaceutical drugs after watching her beloved grandfather die a slow and painful death from stomach cancer. Over the course of her career, she developed the first effective childhood leukemia drug, the first immunosuppressant drug (which made organ transplants possible) and was involved in the development of AZT to treat AIDS. Elion has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. All of these mothers of invention are profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We benefit from their accomplishments and are proud to stand on their shoulders.

(answers: 1-B, 2-A, 3-E, 4-D, 5-C)