PARIS: This International Day of Women and Girls in Science, which is celebrated today, is an occasion to shine the spotlight on some of the world's little-known female inventors.
In the automotive field, many of the innovations we continue to use every day were developed by women.
In 1903, American inventor Mary Anderson filed the first patent for the windshield wiper, which took the form of a mechanized arm with a crank and a simple rubber pad, all operated by a lever, meaning that the driver didn't have to get out of the vehicle to operate it. The system wasn't truly adopted by carmakers until much later, and it wasn't until the 1920s that it became automatic, thanks to the integration of small electric motors.
Interior rearview mirror
In 1909, Englishwoman Dorothy Levitt, a racing driver and aviator in her spare time, published a little manual for women behind the wheel. Among her many tips, she recommends carrying a handheld mirror in order to look at what's going on behind you at times, giving rise to the concept of the rearview mirror. The real rearview mirror made its first appearance at the Indianapolis 500 in 1911 and was later adapted for production cars.
A film star in the early 20th century, Canadian actress Florence Lawrence is remembered for an invention that may be considered the forerunner of the turn signal. In 1914, she came up with the idea of installing a system of an auto-signaling arm at the rear of a car, operated through buttons located near the driver's seat. The system would raise the arm to the left or right to show which way the vehicle was about to turn. Perfected years later, this gave rise to the turn signal.
British typographer and graphic designer Margaret Calvert, along with her colleague Jock Kinneir, created a large number of road signs, first used in the UK and later adopted and rolled out around the world. Their job was to make these signs as clear and easy to understand as possible at a glance. For almost a decade, the team worked on the shape of the signs, as well as on the pictograms and lettering.
Each year, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an opportunity to raise awareness of the essential role played by women in the scientific and technological community, and to call for this role to be strengthened by inspiring vocations.