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Most Famous Female Engineers in History

Did you know the inventor of the windshield wiper was a woman? These are the top ten famous female engineers in history that were groundbreakers for their gender.

By April DemarcoPublished 5 years ago 5 min read

From the 1800s to now, famous female engineers continue to make their mark on history, creating groundbreaking inventions that will alter our lives day to day. As huge milestones for women, and huge milestones for the world, each of these inventions are used to this day. And they weren't created with ease, as there were tireless hours spent, limitations due to gender prejudice in a male-dominated world, and even struggles with illness.

From the windshield wiper to the first computer program, these ten women have left their mark on history forever. Which is the most interesting to you?

Martha Coston

To start off our list of the most famous female engineers, Martha Coston is the inventor of the Coston flare. This was used as a signal at sea; every station of the United States Life-Saving Service used the product as equipment.

Used to signal ships as well as warn them of conditions, the flare was used by surfmen and rescuers alike. Coton's flares were used by the Navy during the Civil War, specifically during the battle of Fort Fisher in North Carolina. Known for being both an inventor and a businesswoman, Coston will forever be known as one of the most famous female engineers.

Emily Roebling

Emily Warren is one of the most famous female engineers for her dedication to completing the Brooklyn Bridge. After her husband, a civil engineer named Washington Roebling, developed a crippling decompression disease, Emily stepped into the role and became known as the first woman field engineer in history.

From this moment forward, she took on the task of completing the Brooklyn Bridge, relaying the progress to her husband as she visited him during his sickness. For 14 years, Emily's life revolved around this production and took on each of the chief engineer's responsibilities, with the help of her husband as she visited him. By 1883, the bridge was complete, and Emily was the first to cross.

Ellen Ochoa

Not only one of the most famous female engineers, but a former astronaut and current Director of the Johnson Space Center, Ellen Ochoa is an impressive woman to say the least. She is the co-creator of three inventions. Each invention is used by scientists to see images that come from space in a more refined way.

These include an optical object recognition method, a method for noise removal, and an optical inspection system. Plus, in 1991, she became the first Hispanic female astronaut in the world, a groundbreaking moment for Hispanic woman everywhere. She is also the second woman to hold the title of director of NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Carol Vorderman

Carol Vorderman is most known for her career in television, being a Welsh media personality and host of the game show, Countdown, for 26 years. However, she is also one of the most famous female engineers, with her creation of The Math Factor. The Match Factor is an online lesson book for mathematics, which includes tutorials, videos, and programs to help students better understand math.

From primary school to algebra, the program is meant to help kids understand math in a new and easier way, and she's more than qualified for the position of Group Captain. Carol has five degrees under her belt, and is using her knowledge to extend a helping hand to kids who struggle with comprehending math every day.

Lillian Gilbreth

Born in 1878, Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth was an American industrial engineer. Some might call her the "Mother of Invention," as she and her husband developed surgical techniques and methods for rehabilitation for those who have physical handicaps.

Lillian used her degrees in psychology integrated with her knowledge of industrial management to bring her success as an engineer. Later in life, Lillian became of professor for universities including Purdue, Bryn Mawr, and Rutgers. Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes were both written by her children, Ernestine and Frank Jr.

Edith Clarke

Next on our list of the most famous female engineers is Edith Clarke. Edith was the first female electrical engineer, specializing in electric power system analysis. She was most known for her invention of the Clark calculator, which was a graphical calculator that used electric current voltage as well as impedance in power transmission lines to solve equations.

This was created in 1921, after years of struggling to find success as an engineer, due to her gender. She also wrote Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems. She later went on to become the first professor of electrical engineering, where she taught at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace is recognized to be the first computer programmer for many reasons. Born in 1815, she was the child of Lord Byron, the poet. In 1842, Lovelace created an algorithm designed to be carried out by a machine, which is considered to be the first computer program, which she named Notes.

This was a huge milestone in the history of computers, as she went on the develop a way for computers to go beyond simply calculating numbers. It is believed that the combination of both her creative mind and her mathematical knowledge resulted in her great success. Unfortunately, she died of uterine cancer at the age of 36 in the year of 1852.

Lynn Conway

Lynn Conway is one of the most famous female engineers for her work as a computer scientist and electrical engineer. Her first invention was created after she completed graduate school, where she invented the Dynamic Instruction Scheduling, a method for issuing multiple out-of-order instructions per supercomputer machine cycle.

This was used in the IBM ACE-1 supercomputers. Not only is she an incredibly successful inventor, but she is also a transgender activist, after coming out to her colleagues about experiencing gender dysphoria. At the age of 31, she completed her gender transition, and is an activist for transgender women and men everywhere.

Stephanie Kwolek

Stephani Kwolek invented Kevlar, the first synthetic fibers of strength. She was awarded the DuPont company's Lavoisier Medal, becoming the first and only female employee to receive the award. In anticipation of a gasoline shortage, Kwolek branded Kevlar, ply-paraphenylene terephthalamide.

Both a famous inventor and scientist, Kwolek originally wanted to study medicine as a career. Kevlar is resistant to flame, corrosion, and any other type wear and tear. It is the main ingredient in bulletproof vests, and has been used in most soldiers' and law enforcement officers' gear. Plus, it's used in helmets, skis, and camping gear.

Mary Anderson

Last, but not least, on our list of the most famous female engineers, is Mary Anderson, the inventor of the windshield wiper blade. An incredibly necessary invention to every car, Anderson was the owner of the patent of 17 years to the first window cleaning device that is controlled inside of the car, the wiper. However, she tried to sell the right to her invention and was rejected, ironically. Her application was rejected with the note of,

"We do not consider it to be of such commercial value as would warrant our undertaking its sale."

Once the 17 years were up, automobile manufacturing businesses used the basic design to create the standard equipment for any windshield. She was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Hame in 2011.


About the Creator

April Demarco

Proud mom of three chinchillas, hard core Justin Bieber fan, watches Unsolved Murders religiously

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