She Invented. She Invented. She Invented.

There’s a lively discussion at Feministing over whether Google’s algorithm is sexist (it isn’t, everyone else is) and whether D&D fans are all misogynist teenage boys (all the ones I’ve known are). Turns out that if you search for “she invented” on Google you get as a recommendation “he invented.” Now, as a self-identifying geek, I’m fairly sure that it’s because people search more often for “he invented” than “she invented” more than for any other reason (certainly not because Google has some secret anti-woman-scientist agenda). But, I also think that’s sad. So, here are a few “she invented”s for you and Google.

  • Hedy Lamar. She invented radio control for torpedoes that used frequency hopping.
  • Madame C. J. Walker. She invented a special soap and brush used for straightening hair.
  • Maria Telkes. She invented a solar heated house, a solar oven, and a distiller for life rafts.
  • Hypatia. She invented the astrolabe and hydrometer, and was murdered by monks who believed math and science to be immoral.
  • Ada Lovelace. She invented the binary system used in modern computers, and developed the programming code used in Charles Babbage’s computer.
  • Mary Walton. She invented one of the first systems for scrubbing pollution out of exhaust (essentially an enormous bong).
  • Beulah Louise Henry. She invented, among other things, a vacuum ice cream freezer, a typewriter that made four copies of whatever was typed on it, and the first bobbinless sewing machine.
  • Gertrude B. Elion. She invented many different medicines, including Purinethol, the first leukemia treatment; Imuran, an immuno-supressent used in organ transplants; the antibiotic Septra; and Zovirax, a treatment for viral herpes.
  • Erna Schneider Hoover. She invented a computerized telephone switching system that eliminated system overload.
  • Stephanie Kwoek. She invented Kevlar.
  • Katharine Blodgett. She invented, among other things, invisible glass, poison gas absorbents, the color gauge (an amazingly accurate ruler inspired by soap bubbles), and a method for deicing aircraft. She was also the first woman to get a Ph.D. from Cambridge.
  • Mary Anderson. She invented the windshield wiper.
  • Helen Blanchard. She invented several different sewing machines (including the first zigzag sewer) and different types of surgical needles.

And if you want to see more things that “she invented” go to this partial list of patents awarded to women in the US.

BTW, I’m going to be contacting Google, asking them to fix their algorithm so that it doesn’t suggest “he” for “she.” If you want to do the same, their contact info is:

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
phone: (650) 253-0000
fax: (650) 253-000

I’ve yet to find a support e-mail address, but if I find one, I’ll update this page.

Update: Due to the large numbers of searches for “she invented,” on Google, “she invented” no longer triggers a recommendation for “he invented.” I’ve been out of touch, but it doesn’t look like Google made any changes to their algorithm. Score one for the wisdom of the masses.

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2 Comments »

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