A Life Denied – A Life Saved
The motive or impetus for this series on women inventors was the diabolical and tragic use of three kidnapped schoolgirls as suicide bombers by a group of Islamic fanatics and terrorists operating in Africa. This group of rather cowardly and anything-but-religious males seeks domination and they do so by sending others out to rape, pillage, and die. The Internet is full of millions of references that uphold my next statement: Only the weak and lacking in self-esteem need to resort to domination and manipulation, kidnapping and other acts of violence, name-calling to incite frenzy and panic. People convinced of their purposes and beliefs can discuss such calmly and with conviction, not screaming and waving automatic firearms and throwing grenades. The death of one of those schoolgirls for such an unworthy cause was beyond tragic.
There is no basis for thinking women are not capable of higher learning or intelligent thought processes and I sought to give multiple examples of such. Gender discrimination has no one event to mark as its beginning. Some claim the Biblical Old testament story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is its beginning. Others cite basic physiology as the reason. Males were bigger and stronger and they could guarantee the most successful hunts and returning with food while the females did better at tending the cave or whatever passed as living arrangements. Regardless of the earl beginnings, there is no need for gender discrimination today.
Today was we begin to conclude this series we will discuss women who were, for one reason or another, denied opportunity. These women created their own lives, much as we all should and in doing so, created a much better world for us all. They refused to let life enslave them or restrict them and in doing so, invented life-saving devices.
Guiliana Cavagliere Tesoro was born in Venice Italy into a Jewish family. She was denied the right to higher education due to fascist laws which were passed under the reign of Mussolini. She moved to Switzerland and then the United States and completed a Ph.D. in chemistry at Yale University at the age of 21. She married that same year and gave birth to two children but otherhood did not slow her down. Before her death in 2002, Dr. Guiliana Tesoro would invent flame-retardant materials that save the lives of firefighters every day. Some of her other synthetic fibers enhance our own lives daily, such things as permanent press clothing, for instance.
Edith Flanigen was born in Buffalo, New York and benefitted from attending a Roman Catholic all-girls school which had an excellent chemistry department. Edith went on to major in chemistry in college and earned two degrees. She left college and went to work for Union Carbide Company, having a most successful career there that would span forty-two years.
Edith Flanigen was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002 and awarded in 2014 the National Medal of Technology and Invention by President Barrack Obama. Before her retirement she invented more than two hundred different synthetic substances, awarded more than one hundred and nine patents, and wrote over thirty-six scientific works which were published.
One of Edith’s most successful invention is something called Zeolite X, a molecular sieve that can separate petroleum into various parts. She also invented a synthetic emerald. This was not only used for commercial jewelry, its more important application is in the use of lasers and other scientific equipment. Edith Flanigen is proof that women can not only think but contribute when allowed to surpass societal norms. Edith’s synthetic emerald has allowed the use of lasers in many life-saving operations as well as the development of drugs to combat disease.
Maria Beasley lived in the nineteenth century and disliked the life rafts of the day. She set about inventing something better and in 1882 received a patent for such. Maria’s life raft is similar to those used today and consisted of a lightweight design that could be folded and yet still support several grown adults when put into action.
At the 1884 Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans, Maria Beasley displayed some of her fifteen inventions, almost all of which earned her money which was a bit unheard of for that time in society. They average working woman earned about three dollars a day while Maria grossed twenty thousand dollars a year. Her inventions included a steam generator, a foot warmer, a wooden-barrel making machine and an anti-derailment device for trains.
Rosalind Franklin grew up in London, England and also benefited from a parochial schooling, this time at a Jewish school. Rosalind knew from an early age that science was her great love and she studied it prodigiously. Her aunt described her as a child: “Rosalind is alarmingly clever – she spends all her time doing arithmetic for pleasure, and invariably gets her sums right.”
Rosalind would go on to study coal, using helium to determine its density. This probably does not sound like much to those of us not scientifically included but her studies of this led to the invention of the gas mask, among other things. She continued her studies of coal and how temperatures affect the molecules of substances, gaining a reputation as an experimental diffraction researcher. It was this reputation and an appointment at King’s College that led to her work with DNA fibers.
Franklin was half of a team that discovered there were two types of DNA. It would be twelve years before the true nature of this discovery would be appreciated and by that time, Rosalind Franklin had died of ovarian cancer. In 1962 James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins shared the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA double helix, a discovery made possible by the x-ray diffraction discoveries of Rosalind Franklin. Many believed she would have received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry that year but the Nobel Committee does not award posthumously.
Candace Helen Brown Elliot is the modern woman, innovative and inventive. A native of the area in California known as Silicon Valley for its technological businesses, Candace is best known for her work with flat panel displays, one of which you might be using this very moment. Such advances in computer displays enable doctors to advise on operations halfway around the world. She has nearly one hundred patents issued to her with others pending. A mother of two grown daughters, Candace is also a pilot and has had several technological companies of her own. She had her husband live in Silicon Valley where in her spare time, she gardens.
Candace Brown Elliot is a firm believer in giving people a chance to develop their own potential and has some strong thoughts about the subject. “Even the best and brightest from our leading universities have rarely been instructed on how to be creative. Our engineering schools teach convergent thinking skills, but rarely teach, or even acknowledge the value of, divergent thinking. Consider that each and every class assignment that they have likely ever work on had a single “right” answer and no other. But novel problems require novel solutions. A good training series for all employees would include the three basics, divergent thinking skills, convergent thinking skills, and continuing self-education skills.”
I’ve said it before and I’m saying it now. Life is messy. Things go awry, people disappoint. Life happens and it is neither always pretty nor pleasant. Each day is a novel experience and, as these women have proven, it often requires a novel approach to see it through to the end of the day. Some call it thinking outside the box while others would offer we need to find the right box and then develop it to its full potential. When it comes to potential, the sky is the limit, regardless of gender. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s female inventors. They certainly have gone above and beyond!