“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Plato
On May 5, 1809, Ms. Mary Dixon Kies became the first woman to receive a patent in the United States of America for her technique of weaving straw with silk. Women, from time immemorial, have been innovating and making breakthroughs in the technological world. From windshield wiper to coffee filter paper, women have contributed significantly with their inventions to make this world a better place.
March is observed as the women’s history month, to reflect on the often-overlooked contributions of women in history. To mark women’s history month, we honor the contributions of these 15 female inventors who have been driving innovation.
#1. Catia Bastioli
Ms. Catia Bastioli is an Italian inventor, chemist, researcher, and entrepreneur. She holds a degree in pure chemistry from the University of Perugia, Italy. Ms. Bastioli also attended the School of Business Administration (“Alti Potenziali Montedison”) at the Bocconi University in Milan. Ms. Bastioli is the CEO of Novamont S.p.A. She is also the president of Terna Spa of the Kyoto Club Association and of the Italian Technological Cluster of Green Chemistry SPRING and member of the Board of Directors of Fondazione Cariplo.
Awards & Honors:
- European Inventor of the Year Award in 2007 in the category “SMEs/research”
- Honoris Causa Degree in Industrial Chemistry (2008, University of Genoa)
- Honorary title of Knighthood (“Cavaliere dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana”), 2013
- Honoris Causa Degree in Materials Engineering (2016, University of Palermo)
- Appointed as “Cavaliere del Lavoro” by the President of the Italian Republic in 2017
- Honoris Causa Degree in Business Economics (2018, University of Foggia)
- Honorary Doctoral Degree in Civil, Chemical, Environmental, and Materials Engineering (2019, University of Bologna)
Her most valuable patent is US5412005A for biodegradable polymeric compositions based on starch and thermoplastic polymers.
Source – EPO
Ms. Bastioli’s patent portfolio has 1291 patents globally which belong to 186 unique patent families. She is an individual inventor of 4 and a co-inventor in the rest of the 182 core patents.
#2. Esther Sans Takeuchi
Dr. Esther Sans Takeuchi is an American inventor. She completed her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Ohio State University, under the direction of Dr. Harold Shechter in 1981. She has been a Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo since September 2007. Prior to this, she has worked with Electrochem as a Chief Scientist and at Greatbatch Inc. for more than two decades as a Director of Research & Development.
She has also served as a postdoctoral research associate in electrochemistry, first at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1982 to 1983, and then at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1983 to 1984.
Dr. Takeuchi is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering. After 40 years in industry and academia, she continues to work at the forefront of battery technology innovation.
Awards & Honors:
- National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2010 awarded by President Obama
- European Inventor Award in 2018
The most valuable patent in Ms. Takeuchi’s portfolio is US4964877A for a non-aqueous lithium battery.
Source – EPO
Ms. Takeuchi has 584 patents globally which belong to 153 unique patent families in her patent portfolio. She is an individual inventor of 5 and a co-inventor in the rest of the 148 core patents.
#3. Joy Mangano
In 1990 after growing frustrated with ordinary mops, Ms. Mangano developed her first invention, the Miracle Mop. It is a self-wringing plastic mop with a head made from a continuous loop of 300 feet (90 meters) of cotton that can be easily wrung out without getting the user’s hands wet. David O. Russell directed an Oscar-nominated movie based on her life, Joy. Ms. Mangano has also written a best-selling book, Inventing Joy which she says is for those who want to build a brave and creative life.
Source – The Inc
Awards & Honors:
- Named the Long Island Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1997
- Ranked number 77 on Fast Company’s list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2009
- Included in Fast Company’s list of the 10 Most Creative Women in Business in 2010
The most valuable patent in Ms. Mangano’s portfolio is US5722260A for reversible jewelry clasp for necklaces and/or bracelets.
Ms. Mangano’s patent portfolio consists of 121 patents globally which belong to 68 unique patent families. She is an individual inventor of 55 and a co-inventor in the rest of the 13 core patents.
#4. Helen Lee
Dr. Helen Lee is a medical researcher. She obtained her Ph.D. in biology, microbiology, and parasitology from Cornell University. Dr. Lee is the Associate Professor in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge. She is also the President and CEO of Diagnostics for the Real World Ltd (DRW), Sunnyvale, USA, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, DRW-Europe, Cambridge, UK. She has also worked with Abbott Laboratories from 1991 to 1995, as a General Manager, Probe Diagnostics Business Unit.
Awards & Honors:
- National Honor Society of Sigma Xi, 1967
- Who’s Who of American Men in Science, 1970
- The Entrepreneurial Award (Abbott Laboratories), 1988
- The Phoenix Award (Abbott Laboratories), 1991
- Finalist, YWCA Women of Achievement Award, 1994
- Best Diagnostic Innovation Award (Medical Futures Innovation Competition), 2003
- Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award (British Foundation for Science & Technology), 2005
- British Female Inventor in Industry Award, 2006
- European Women of Achievement Award 2006
- Asian Women of Achievement Award, 2007
- Tech Museum of Innovation Award, 2007
- European Inventor Award, 2016
- Appointed as a judge for the European Inventor Award, 2019
- Recognized on the Times’ Science Power List in May 2020
Her invention, the diagnostic kit SAMBA II is being repurposed for use in COVID-19 testing. The most valuable patent in Ms. Lee’s portfolio is US6521747B2 for haplotypes of the AGTR1 gene.
Source – EPO
Dr. Lee has 168 patents globally which belong to 37 unique patent families in her patent portfolio. She is an individual inventor of 4 and a co-inventor in the rest of the 33 core patents.
#5. Ann Lambrechts
Awards & Honors:
- Winner of the European Inventor Award, 2011 in the category “Industry”
Source – EPO
Her invention of mixing steel wire elements into concrete has improved the stability of structures where it is used and reduced building costs. This invention, which is patent no. US6235108B1 is the most valuable patent in her portfolio. Her invention increases the bending tensile strength of concrete by 32%, enabling more pioneering projects to be built.
Ms. Lambrechts patent portfolio has 232 patents globally, which belong to 28 unique patent families. She is an individual inventor of 10 and a co-inventor in the remaining 18 core patents.
#6. Ursula Keller
Dr. Ursula Keller is a Swiss inventor. She obtained her Ph.D. in engineering physics/applied physics from Stanford University.
Dr. Keller joined ETH Zurich as a professor of physics in 1993, where she leads the Ultrafast Laser Physics group. She currently serves as a director of the NCCR MUST (Molecular Ultrafast Science and Technology), an interdisciplinary research program supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, bringing together 15 Swiss research groups in ultrafast physics and chemistry. She has published more than 330 peer-reviewed journal papers and 11 book chapters.
Awards & Honors:
- Weizmann Women and Science Award, 2017
- European Inventor Award, 2018 for laser technology in the category “lifetime achievement”
- IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Photonics Award, 2018
- IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Edison Medal, 2019
- SPIE (the international society for optics and photonics) Gold Medal, 2020
The most valuable patent in Dr. Keller’s portfolio is US6834064B1 for the semiconductor saturable-absorber mirror technology used in mode-locking ultrafast solid-state laser systems.
Source – EPO
She has 80 patents globally which belong to 22 unique patent families in her patent portfolio. She is an individual inventor of 2 and a co-inventor in the rest 20 core patents.
#7. Christine Van Broeckhoven
Dr. Christine Van Broeckhoven is a Belgian inventor. She completed her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Antwerp. Ms. Broeckhoven is a Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at the University of Antwerp since 1995.
Since 1983 she has had her own laboratory for molecular genetics at the University of Antwerp, and since 2005 is focussing her research on neurodegenerative brain diseases. She is an associate editor of the scientific journal Genes, Brain, and Behavior.
Dr. Broeckhoven has over 35 years of experience in molecular genetics research of neurodegenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, amyothrophic lateral sclerosis, lewy bodies disorders, and Parkinson’s disease.
Awards & Honors:
- Belgian Quinquennial Prize of the Belgian National Science Foundation
- Potamkin Prize (The Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and Related Diseases),
- The Arkprijs van het Vrije Woord
- European Inventor Award 2011.
The most valuable patent in Dr. Broeckhoven’s portfolio is EP561087B1 for a mutated form of the beta-amyloid precursor protein gene.
Source – magazine.live
Her patent portfolio has 77 patents globally which belong to 20 unique patent families.
#8. Margarita Salas
Late Dr. Margarita Salas (30 November 1938 – 7 November 2019) was a Spanish inventor. Margarita had graduated from the Complutense University of Madrid with a B.A. in chemistry and obtained a Ph.D. in 1963. She started her career in the US-based laboratory of Nobel-prize winner Severo Ochoa. She returned to her native Spain in 1967 to establish the country’s first research group in the field of molecular genetics.
Dr. Salas led the breakthroughs that have since made DNA testing fast, reliable, and used in a wide range of applications.
Awards & Honors:
- Carlos J. Finlay Prize, UNESCO, 1991
- Medal of Principality of Asturias, 1997
- National Research Award Santiago Ramon y Cajal, 1999
- L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, 2000
- Selected among the 100 women of the twentieth century that paved the way for equality in the XXI Century by the Council of Women of the Community of Madrid, 2001
- Isabel Ferrer Award of the Generalitat Valenciana, 2002
- Gold Medal of the Community of Madrid, 2002
- Grand Cross of the Civil Order of Alfonso X, the Wise, 2003
- International Prize for Science and Research Cristóbal Gabarrón Foundation, 2004
- Gold Medal for Merit in Work, 2005
- Medal of Honor of the Complutense University of Madrid, 2005
- Award of Excellence granted by FEDEPE (Spanish Federation of Women Directors, Executives, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs), 2006
- First Spanish woman to become a member of the National Academy of Science (United States), 2007
- Gold Medal of the College of Veterinarians of the Principality of Asturias, 2009
- Title of Honorary Ambassador of the Spain Brand, category of Science and Innovation, which fails Leading Brands of Spanish Forum with the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, 2009
- Women Leader Award, awarded by the Rafael del Pino, Aliter and Merck Foundation, 2009
- Award “An entire professional life” of the Mapfre Foundation, 2009
- Chemistry Excellence Award, awarded by the General Council of Associations of Chemists of Spain, 2014
- Medalla Echegaray, the highest award from the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences, 2016
- ManchaArte Award 2018, 2018
- European Inventor Award Lifetime Achievement Award and Audience Award by European Patent Office, 2019
The most valuable patent in Dr. Salas’s portfolio is US5198543A for an improved method for determining the nucleotide base sequence of a DNA molecule.
Source – The Conversation
Her patent portfolio has 80 patents globally which belong to 19 unique patent families.
#9. Marissa Mayer
Ms. Marissa Mayer is an American inventor. Marissa studied symbolic systems and computer science with an emphasis on artificial intelligence, receiving a B.S. degree in 1997 and an M.S. degree in 1999 at Stanford University. She is the co-founder of Sunshine Contacts. She has worked with some of the major corporate giants like Walmart, Yahoo, and Google. Ms. Mayer designed the search interface of Google’s home page. During her tenure at Google, Ms. Mayer helped create a number of patented inventions related to web-browsing software, including a program that searches saved articles.
Source – Business Insider
Ms. Mayer actively invests in technology companies, including crowd-sourced design retailer Minted, live video platform Airtime.com, wireless power startup uBeam, online DIY community/e-commerce company Brit + Co., mobile payments processor Square, home décor site One Kings Lane, genetic testing company Natera, and nootropics and biohacking company Nootrobox.
The most valuable patent in Ms. Mayer’s portfolio is US7096214B1 for a system and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results.
Source – US7096214B1
Ms. Mayer has 63 patents globally which belong to 14 unique patent families in her patent portfolio.
#10. Annegret Matthai
Ms. Annegret Matthai is a German inventor, working with Audi AG, Germany. She is involved and working on inventions related to the motor industry. The most valuable patent in her portfolio is DE102008004049A1 for a laminated glass unit for use as a windshield in a motor vehicle.
Source – DE102008004049A1
Ms. Matthai has 32 patents globally in her patent portfolio, which belong to 13 unique patent families.
#11. Ann Tsukamoto
Dr. Ann Tsukamoto is an American inventor with a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of California. She is a stem cell researcher, who started her career with SyStemix in 1989.
With her husband, Professor Irv Weissman, as co-patentee, Dr. Tsukamoto’s patent for stem cell isolation was awarded in 1991. Their discovery gave people with blood cancer another chance at life and has since saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Her work with Stem Cells, Inc. involves the isolation of liver and neural stem cells as they pertain to a variety of diseases.
Her most recent position was executive vice president for Scientific and Strategic Alliances at StemCells, Inc. During her 18-year tenure at StemCells, Dr. Tsukamoto led the scientific team that discovered the human central nervous system stem cell (HuCNS-SC®) and a second candidate stem cell for the liver and that transitioned the human neural stem cell into early clinical development in all three components of the CNS: brain, spinal cord, and eye. The biological potential and activity of these HuCNS-SC® cells were demonstrated in some patients and reflected results seen in preclinical rodents’ studies. The many challenges of developing a cell therapy in a small biotech firm led to the closure of StemCells, Inc., in August 2016.
She successfully invented the method to isolate blood stem cells in the body and obtained patent no. US5061620A.
Source – Women@TheFrontier
This is the most valuable patent in her portfolio. Dr. Tsukamoto has 48 patents globally in her portfolio, which belong to 8 unique patent families.
#12. Laura Johanna van ‘t Veer
Dr. Laura Johanna van ‘t Veer is a Dutch Molecular Biologist and inventor of MammaPrint. Her research focuses on personalized medicine, to advance patient management based on knowledge of the genetic make-up of the tumor as well as the genetic make-up of the patient. She completed her Ph.D. in oncology and cancer biology from the Leiden University.
Laura is the Professor Laboratory Medicine and Director Applied Genomics Cancer Center at the UCSF (University of California San Francisco) since 2010. She has earlier worked with Agendia and the Netherlands Cancer Institute. Laura was also a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School (HMS) from 1989 to 1991.
Award & Honors:
- European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) LifeTime Achievement Award, 2007
- Second prize EU Women Innovator Award, 2014
- European Inventor Award in the category Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, 2015
- European CanCer Organization Clinical Research Award, 2017
- Precision Medicine World Conference Luminary Award, 2020
- Recognized as one of the ’32 Amazing Women Inventors’, a group of women who succeeded in fields that are overwhelmingly dominated by men
Source – EPO
The most valuable patent in Laura Johanna van ‘t Veer’s portfolio is US7171311B2, for methods of assigning treatment to breast cancer patients.
In Laura Johanna van ‘t Veer’s patent portfolio there are 40 patents globally, which belong to 8 unique patent families.
#13. Macinley Butson
Ms. Macinley Butson is an Australian inventor and holds a bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Wollongong. She is the founder of Passionately Curious, which provides access and opportunity to STEM, sparking curiosity for a generation of young minds. Prior to starting Passionately Curious, Ms. Butson has worked with Scilutions Pty Ltd as a Director.
She is notable as the youngest female inventor and scientist. She came up with her first invention at the age of 6. Ms. Butson has received numerous awards and honors as an inventor.
Awards & Honors:
- Marie Claire + Bumble Glass Ceiling Awards, 2019 – The Future Shaper award winner
- Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winner, 2019
- Instyle and Audi Women of Style Awards Judges Choice Winner, 2019
- Instyle and Audi Women of Style Next-Gen Innovator (Science) Award Winner, 2019
- Ozwater ’19 Keynote Speaker
- TedXYouth@ScotchCollegeAdelaide Speaker
- AFR 100 Woman of Influence Finalist
- 1st place Award at Intel International Science & Engineering Fair
- 3rd place in Environmental Engineering at Intel International Science & Engineering Fair
- NSW Young Australian of the Year, 2018
- Event Speaker for TedxYouth@Sydney
- 1st Place in Translational Medicine at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
- Australian Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winner
- 4th Place in Energy: Physical at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
- 1st Place at the BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards
In Ms. Butson’s patent portfolio there are 6 patents globally and all the patents belong to unique patent families. She is an individual inventor of all 6 core patents. She invented an ultraviolet radiation sticker that measures the solar UV exposure required to sanitize drinking water, and a smart shield to protect women undergoing radiotherapy against excess radiation.
Source – Good News Network
#14. Patricia Billings
Ms. Patricia Billings is an American inventor and businesswoman. She completed her study in Arts at Amarillo College in Texas. Her detour from art into technology came in the late 1970s, when a swan sculpture, after months of work, fell and shattered. Ms. Billings, who knew that Michelangelo and other Renaissance sculptors used a cement additive to give their plaster longevity, set out to create a modern equivalent.
Her specialty was plaster of Paris sculptures and Ms. Billings filed several patents for building materials including modular wall panels and roofing tiles.
The most valuable patent in Ms. Billings’s portfolio is US5647180A for a fire-resistant building panel marketed by the name Geobond®.
Geobond® products are so resistant to heat that after being torched with a 2,000°F flame for four hours, it remains lukewarm.
Source – Inventricity
Ms. Billings in her patent portfolio has 8 patents globally, which belong to 5 unique patent families.
#15. Lynn Ann Conway
Ms. Lynn Ann Conway is an American inventor. After earning her BS and MSEE from Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, Ms. Conway joined IBM Research. There she made foundational contributions to computer architecture, including the invention of multiple-out-of-order dynamic instruction scheduling. Fired by IBM as she underwent gender transition in 1968, Ms. Conway secretly started her career over again in ‘stealth mode’, soon becoming a computer architect at Memorex. She has also worked at MIT as a Vis. Assoc. Professor of EECS, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, and DAPRA. At present, she is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan.
Her specialties are computer science, systems architecture, electrical engineering, microelectronic design, research management, engineering education, human rights advocacy.
Awards & Honors:
- Electronics 1981 Award for Achievement
- Harold Pender Award of the Moore School, University of Pennsylvania
- IEEE EAB Major Educational Innovation Award, 1984
- Fellow of the IEEE, 1985, “for contributions to VLSI technology”
- John Price Wetherill Medal of the Franklin Institute, with Carver Mead, 1985
- Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Award, 1985
- Member of the National Academy of Engineering, 1989
- National Achievement Award, Society of Women Engineers, 1990
- Presidential Appointment to the United States Air Force Academy Board of Visitors, 1996
- Honorary Doctorate, Trinity College, 1998
- Electronic Design Hall of Fame, 2002
- Engineer of the Year, National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, 2005
- Computer Pioneer Award, IEEE Computer Society, 2009
- Fellow Award, Computer History Museum, 2014
- Honorary Doctorate, Illinois Institute of Technology, 2014
- IEEE/RSE James Clerk Maxwell Medal, 2015
- Honorary Doctorate, University of Victoria
- Fellow Award, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2016
- Honorary Doctorate and Commencement Address, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 2018
- Pioneer in Tech Award, National Center for Women in Technology (NCWIT), 2019
- Lifetime Achievement Award, IBM Corporation, 2020
The most valuable patent in Ms. Conway’s portfolio is US5652849A for an apparatus and method for remote control using a visual information stream.
In Ms. Conway’s patent portfolio there are 5 patents globally, which belong to 5 unique patent families.
These are some of the female inventors from among numerous women who have contributed to the world of innovation. These women are an inspiration for young girls around the world. Women continue to disrupt the patent industry and make life easier with their inventions. We at PQAI salute and celebrate all the female inventors around the world.