Posts Tagged ‘inventions’

An acute observation led Mary Anderson to invent the windshield wiper.

The windshield wiper and the dishwasher were invented by women. I didn’t know that until I came across these facts recently.

Mary Anderson patented her invention of the mechanical windshield wiper in 1903.

The  idea came to her on a trip to New York City. According to the website About.com: Inventors: “Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers had to open the windows of their cars when it rained in order to see, as a solution she invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle via a lever. The windshield wipers became standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.”

Josephine Cochrane of Illinois invented the first practical dishwasher in 1886. The first dishwasher was patented in 1850 by Joel Houghton but his machine which was a hand-turned wheel did not clean dishes effectively.

The care of her good china led a woman to invent the dishwasher.

The care of her good china led a woman to invent the dishwasher.

There is a twist to the story. Cochrane was not a harassed housewife with a household of children and chores that she had to tackle on her own. She was actually quite wealthy, and invented the dishwasher because her maids were chipping her fine china.

Her invention is described in inventors.suite101.com: “With the help of a young mechanic, George Butters, Cochrane worked in a wood shed behind her home. She measured the dishwasher and designed wire compartments to hold each; plates, cups and saucers. These compartments were then placed inside a wheel laid flat into a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel while jets squirted hot soapy water from the bottom of the boiler and over the dishes. The user had to pour hot water over the dishes for rinsing. Later models included a self-rinse cycle.”

Well, I don’t have a maid nor a dishwasher. (In the US, unlike Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries, only quite wealthy families can afford fulltime maids). And on days when the dishes begin to pile up, sometimes I wish that I have a dishwasher sitting snugly in my kitchen.

It is a pleasant coincidence that I came across these facts as we move towards celebrating  International Women’s Day on March 8, a day which celebrates the story of ordinary women as makers of history, and the achievements of women.

I believe that each of us is born with our own unique talent. And many of us share this ideal: that every girl and every woman in any corner of the world will have the chance and the space to fulfill her talent or potential.

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 Microwave oven

The microwave oven has changed the way we spend our time in the kitchen.

Can you imagine it? The microwave oven has become such a fixture in our lives and in our kitchens that we use it, without much thought, almost everyday.

We heat our food in it, we boil water for our tea or coffee in it, and some people cook dishes from scratch in the microwave. In the United States, the “convenience food” capital of the world,
you can have all your meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, even `freshly made’ desserts – with microwavable meals that you buy in the freezer section in the supermarket. Just take it out of the box and nuke it.


Popcorn and sandwiches are popular microwave snacks.

Not that it’s healthy, but there’s a huge variety of food that you can eat without putting a saucepan on the stove.

I got thinking about this when I happened to read about the history of this ubiquitous appliance. The first microwave oven for home use was introduced in October 1955 by the Tappan Stove Company of Ohio. Its size was 24”x24”, almost the size of a small conventional oven or a television set. And it cost a whopping $1,300!

As they say in the famous line, you’ve come a long way, baby, So, happy belated birthday to the microwave oven, one of the modern inventions that have revolutionized our lifestyle, like the automobile and the computer. Wonder if we will see another such innovative invention in the near future.

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