Can You Match These Amazing Women to Their Inventions?


By: Robin Tyler

7 Min Quiz

Image: Manuel Breva Colmeiro/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Since the dawn of time, our society has advanced in many ways. Inventions have improved our health, our safety and our quality of life. And how do they come about? Well, mostly it is because creative men and women notice a problem and try to find a way to solve it.

And although men have gotten recognition for many inventions during the course of history, women have played a massive role as well, inventing a range of things that have contributed greatly toward our comfort and convenience in many different fields, including engineering, space travel, robotics, computers and many others.

For example, did you know that Margaret Knight is credited with inventing the rotary engine? What about Florence Parpart, who gave us a machine that cleans our streets? And Sarah Mather, well, she gave us the submarine lamp and telescope, while Adeline Whitney is responsible for that childhood favorite, alphabet blocks.

This is just a small sample of the many incredible inventions that women inventors have come up with during the last 200 years. But do you think you would be able to match a host of other women inventors with their contributions to our world?

Let's see how well you can do!

Not only a Hollywood star but also an inventor, Hedy Lamarr helped the U.S. Navy with her invention. What was it?

Actress Hedy Lamarr, together with music composer George Antheil, improbably created spread spectrum technology, using knowledge each had obtained during other pursuits. This technology helped encrypt control signals for torpedoes so they could not be jammed.


What medicine did Gertrude Elion help develop to help fight HIV/AIDS?

AZT was the first medicine developed to fight HIV and stop it from becoming full-blown AIDS. Its creator, Nobel Prize winner Gertrude Elion, was an American pharmacologist and biochemist. She was also responsible for many other medical discoveries, including the first immunosuppressive drug used in organ transplants.


Which computer-related innovation did Grace Hopper co-invent, helping users string a set of commands for a computer to execute?

Grace Hopper, a mathematician and U.S. Navy rear admiral, was responsible for a number of discoveries. She invented the first programming compiler in the mid-1950s and went on to co-invent the COBOL programming language later in her life. She's known as the Mother of COBOL.


American inventor Margaret E. Knight was responsible for a number of inventions. For which is she most famous?

In 1868, Margaret E. Knight devised a machine that first folded and then glued paper to form flat-bottomed paper bags. Charles Annan, who learned about her machine, stole the design and tried to patent it. After a court battle, which Knight won, she applied for the patent in her own name.


Still used in households today, what was invented by Josephine Cochrane of the U.S. in the 1880s?

Josephine Cochrane earned a patent for a mechanical dishwasher in 1886. She came up with the idea because her precious heirloom dishes were getting chipped when washed. After her husband died, she put her idea into practice, first selling to hotels and restaurants. Such dishwashers didn't start to become common in homes until the 1950s.


Can you name the invention which made Maria Beasley over $20,000 a year, way back in the 1800s?

Maria Beasley was a prolific inventor. Her barrel making machine alone made her approximately $20,000 per year, which would equal nearly half a million annually in today's dollars.


We have Mary Anderson to thank for an important device on our motor cars. Used in inclement weather, what is it?

A rancher and real estate developer, Mary Anderson visited New York in the early 1900s, where she observed drivers having to stick their heads out of their windows to see during falling sleet. Once she returned to her home in Alabama, she came up with a working model of a windshield wiper that was operated by a lever. Unfortunately, car manufacturers were skeptical, imagining that the wipers would distract drivers. Anderson's patent expired before she could convince anyone to use her invention.


Sarah Breedlove was the first female self-made millionaire in the United States. What did she devise that brought her riches?

Working as a laundress, Sarah Breedlove noticed that her hair suffered from the harsh ingredients in regular hair products. She devised her own range of hair-care products for African Americans under the name Madam C. J. Walker. She even set up a school to train fellow African American woman in hair care, helping to create jobs for thousands of people.


Every morning we should thank German entrepreneur Melitta Bentz for her invention. What do you think it is?

Filtering was not an exact science during Melitta Bentz's lifetime, and she was determined to find a way to do it effectively. So, starting with blotting paper, Bentz tried a range of papers before she eventually perfected the perfect filter. And every morning, we thank her for it.


Beulah Louise Henry was a prolific inventor. One of her improvements was loved by secretaries in the mid-20th century in particular. What is it?

With over 110 inventions and close to 50 patents, Beulah Louise Henry was known as "Lady Edison." Her ''protograph" could produce four identical pages of typing. Pretty useful in a time without photocopiers or scanners!


We have Ruth Graves Wakefield to thank for something we love to have with our coffee or tea. What do you think it is?

In the 1930s, Ruth Graves Wakefield added pieces of semi-sweet chocolate to cookie dough, because she was out of her usual baker's chocolate. And aren't we glad she did, because that's how chocolate chip cookies were born!


Parents around the world thank Marion Donovan daily for her invention. What do you think it is?

After noticing leakage from cloth diapers, Marion Donovan tried to devise a way to use waterproof material to prevent this. Her early attempts didn't work, but she persisted and eventually created what she called the "Boater." She then went on to invent the disposable diaper – and parents around the world have been thankful ever since.


Born in France, Jeanne Villepreux-Power is responsible for which marine related invention?

Jeanne Villepreux-Power, a naturalist, is credited with devising the first aquarium in 1832. She did so in order to observe marine creatures more closely.


Mary Sherman Morgan's contribution to the space race remained a secret for a long time. What did she invent?

Mary Sherman Morgan invented the rocket fuel that launched the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, into space in 1958. Her work only came to light in her later life when her son found out more about what his mother had achieved.


What did Marie Van Brittan Brown help invent, which today keeps us all much safer in our homes?

Because she worked as a nurse and returned home at different times, Marie Van Brittan Brown often didn't feel safe home alone. Together with her husband, she developed an early home security system with a camera, a two-way communication device and a simple door opening procedure.


Police around the world have Stephanie Kwolek to thank for their protection. Can you name her invention?

A chemist by trade, Stephanie Kwolek was trying to find a replacement for the steel in a radial tire when she instead invented Kevlar in 1965. Five times stronger than steel, Kevlar in bulletproof vests has helped save many lives.


NASA scientist and engineer Jeanne L. Crews developed which of these in the 1960s, still used to protect satellites and space vehicles today?

Objects in space can travel at high speeds; if debris connects with a satellite, it can destroy it. Jeanne L. Crews created a "bumper" from Nextel, a ceramic fabric. Lighter than aluminum, the fabric absorbs energy from a piece of space debris when hit.


Working in the field of ophthalmology, Patricia Bath invented what in 1986?

In 1986, Patricia Bath applied for and received a patent for a laser called the Laserphaco Probe. It helped to remove cataracts and cleaned the eye, making the insertion of a replacement lens easier.


Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta devised a piece of equipment to help relief workers following earthquakes and other tragedies. What is it?

Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Anna Stork and Andrea Sreshta knew that a light source that could be folded and kept until needed would be a great help to rescue workers and relief teams. They invented the LuminAID Solar Light. It takes up very little space in relief kits, needs just three hours of sunlight for up to six hours of light, and is waterproof.


From these options, which outdoor safety device do you think teenager Ayla Hutchinson created?

Ayla Hutchinson, a teenager from New Zealand, decided to create a safety device after she saw her mother injure her finger while chopping wood for kindling. Her invention is called the Kindling Cracker. Wood is inserted into the cast iron device, then it is hit with a rubber mallet or another piece of wood, and this causes the wood to split. Much safer, indeed.


Need to get out of a burning building? You have Anna Connelly to thank for her invention that allows you to do so safely. What is it?

Anna Connelly patented an early fire escape in 1887 – essentially a bridge that would connect two buildings at the roof line. Since then, fire escapes have become a mandatory part of building safety codes throughout the United States.


Which of these board games, still loved today, did Elizabeth Magie invent in 1903?

Although it wasn't called Monopoly at the time, Elizabeth Magie put together the principles for the board game in 1903 in something called The Landlord's Game. She hoped that her game would teach people about the evils of capitalism.


Ann Tsukamoto's work in the 1990s benefits cancer patients to this day. What did she receive a patent for?

Ann Tsukamoto was awarded a patent in 1991 for work in the field of human stem cell research. Her work means that we have a better understanding of how blood systems in cancer patients work and one day could lead to a cure.


Patricia Billings, a sculptor by trade, invented something in the 1970s which had an application in the building field as well. What is it?

Artist Patricia Billings wanted a way to strengthen her sculptures. In coming up with Geobond®, she developed a plaster that was not only indestructible, but fire resistant as well.


What did Bette Nesmith Graham invent that typists, secretaries and school kids use to this day?

Although electronic typewriters were faster than their manual counterparts, one mistake and everything had to be retyped. Bette Nesmith Graham overcame this problem by using white water-based tempera paint. She originally called it Mistake Out and soon began to market it to other secretaries. The rest, as they say, is history! By the way, she is also the mother of musician and Monkee Michael Nesmith.


Livestock farmers have Temple Grandin to thank for a critical piece of equipment used throughout the U.S. What is it?

Despite her autism, Dr. Temple Grandin is a prolific inventor. Not only did she devise the center-track cattle restraint system but she also invented livestock handling pens that prevent cattle from getting hurt.


Loved by little girls around the world (and Ken), "who" did Ruth Handler design?

Not only did Ruth Handler come up with the most loved doll in the world, Barbie, but she also co-founded the famous toy company, Mattel. Barbie and Ken were named after Handler's daughter and son.


New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob is credited with creating something that offered woman "support." Which of these below do you think it is?

Before Mary Phelps Jacob came along, bras were cumbersome, heavy and made with whalebone, which had a tendency to stick into the skin. By combining two silk handkerchiefs and connecting them with pink ribbon, she invented the modern bra, which she called the "Backless Brassiere."


Ann Moore is credited with which invention that brings a mother and baby closer together?

While working as a Peace Corps relief worker in Africa, Ann Moore noticed how mothers tied their babies to their backs in fabric slings. Upon her return to the United States, she devised her own carrier, which eventually morphed into the Snugli.


Although she didn't invent this grooming tool, Lyda Newman improved on it significantly. Which of these are we talking about?

In the late 1890s, Lyda Newman improved the hairbrush by doing away with animal hair bristles and using synthetic bristles. Her new brush was also much easier to clean and far more hygienic.


Which protective covering did Patsy Sherman accidentally invent in 1953?

It was while working for 3M, trying to devise a new form of rubber for jet fuel lines, that Patsy Sherman invented Scotchgard. A colleague knocked over a beaker of synthetic latex she had made, splashing it onto her white canvas shoes. She couldn't remove the latex from her shoes, but soon she noticed that they repelled water, oil and practically anything else. And so Scotchgard was born!


Tabitha Babbitt was at the "cutting" edge of technology in the early 1800s. What did she invent?

Realizing that a spinning round blade would cut through logs effectively, Tabitha Babbitt invented the circular saw in the early 1810s. She is also said to have invented improvements for false teeth but, due to her Shaker beliefs, she never patented any of her inventions.


Eldorado Jones help to bring a little bit of silence to aircraft in the 1920s. What was her contribution to aviation?

Aircraft were pretty noisy in the early days of aviation. Eldorado Jones helped solve the problem by creating a muffler for engines that reduced sound but not power. She was also an early feminist, employing only women over 40 at her company, Eldorado Inventions.


Do you know which of these Sarah Boone invented, helping to keep clothes pressed and neat?

Sarah Boone was given a patent for the ironing board back in 1892. Before its invention, people used to iron on a piece of wood, usually secured between two chairs.


Which piece of medical equipment did Letitia Mumford Geer invent, patented in 1899?

Letitia Mumford Geer, a nurse, was granted a patent for the one-hand syringe in 1899. It is the forerunner of the modern syringes we use today.


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