5 Inspiring women inventors you've never heard of

BY Heritage Open Days

10th Aug 2022 Life

5 Inspiring women inventors you've never heard of

Do you remember using one of those special guillotines to cut paper at school? Do you still use one?! Did you know they were invented by a woman?

Heritage Open Days (9th-18th September 2022) is all about "Astounding Inventions" this year, and the women (and men) who created them.

Here are a few wonderful women you will encounter this year…

1. Helen Pattinson, Montezuma’s Chocolate

We all love chocolate. Helen Pattinson founded Montezuma's Chocolates in 2000 with only a "kitchen sink sized machine" and a "broad ideal to bring chocolate innovation to a boring and staid British chocolate market."

Enthusiasm, naivety, and a love of chocolate have propelled Montezuma from a small shop in Brighton to a globally renowned brand. They were the first to bring chilli chocolate to the UK, and at their event at Montezuma’s Winchester (Friday 9 - Sunday 18 September) you can discover chocolate innovation, and extraordinary chocolate flavours, and have a go at being a chocolate inventor yourself.

2. Ada Lovelace, computer programming

Portrait of Ada Lovelace

Without Ada Lovelace, where would we be? The first computer programme was written by Countess Augusta Ada Lovelace of Horsley Towers in 1843, a century before programmable computers became a reality.

Countess Augusta Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) was the only legitimate child of the Romantic poet Lord Byron. When she married William King in 1835, their union produced one of the biggest landholdings in England including Horsley Park, where they commissioned the magnificent Gothic mansion that still stands today.

She was friends with one of the finest female mathematicians of her time, Mary Somerville, and they had endless chats about modern mathematics with her and talked in detail about Charles Babbage’s difference engine. It was when Ada became friends with the mathematician Charles Babbage that she became involved in his project to create the Analytical Engine, a mechanical programmable computer.

The Engine was never built in their lifetime but Lovelace wrote and published the first non-trivial computer program in 1843, changing the face of computing forever. A true pioneer and visionary.

Come see the talk Ada Lovelace: The Countess who invented Computer Programming at the Leatherhead Institute in Surrey on Friday 16 September at 2.30pm, to find out more about this extraordinary woman.

3. Hertha Ayrton Marks, engineer and suffragette

Heard of Hertha Ayrton Marks, pioneering British engineer, mathematician, physicist and inventor, and suffragette? This energetic inventor studied mathematics at Cambridge, where she  also found time to construct a blood pressure meter, lead the choral society, found the Girton fire brigade, and form a maths club!

In 1899, she was the first woman to read her own paper "The Hissing of the Electric Arc" before the Institution of Electrical Engineers and was elected their first female member. She was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society for her work on electric arcs and ripple marks in sand and water.

During her lifetime, she registered an incredible 26 patents: five on mathematical dividers,13 on arc lamps and electrodes, the rest on the propulsion of air.

You can find out more about this extraordinary woman and her amazing inventions at a special HODs performance by Pedlars and Petticoats at Winchester City Museum on Saturday 10 September at 11:30 and 15:00.

4. Eleanor Coade, Coade stone

What links an 18th Century villa in Lyme Regis with London's South Bank lion? The answer is Coade stone, a remarkable invention by Georgian businesswoman Eleanor Coade.

Her artificial stone was extremely durable and overwhelmingly successful in her day, transforming 18th Century architecture. It was so hard-wearing that many sculptures made from it remain in pristine condition today!

This Heritage Open Days, you can enjoy a Coade Stone Showcase at Belmont, Lyme Regis. Belmont once belonged to Eleanor Coade, and The Landmark Trust has restored the villa to its appearance in her day. This site is not normally open to the public so book your slot on Saturday 10 and 11 September soon.

5. The women codebreakers of Bletchley park

Bletchley Park, once the top-secret home of the Second World War codebreakers, is now a vibrant heritage attraction.

Step back in time to experience the stories of the extraordinary achievements of the men and women who worked here. A place of exceptional historical importance, Bletchley Park is also the birthplace of modern computing.

Highlights include the restored codebreaking huts, with their Second World War interiors faithfully recreated, the mansion and hands-on displays in the blocks. Explore the beautiful grounds and historic buildings with an interactive multimedia guide and enjoy the atmospheric soundscapes, galleries and exhibitions.

Don’t miss The Intelligence Factory, the largest exhibition on the site, which opened in 2022. Discover objects, personal stories and enjoy thrilling moments of interaction as you explore the exhibition, which focuses on Bletchley Park’s wartime operations from 1942 to 1945. Explore a key part of the Bletchley Park story and how it operated at an industrial scale to meet operational demands, with a multi-skilled workforce of around 9,000, 75 per cent of which were women. Open throughout Heritage Open Days.

Heritage Open Days 2022

These are just a few of the thousands of events registered for Heritage Open Days 2022. You can find out more and plan your days at the Heritage website.  

Every September thousands of volunteers across England organise events to celebrate our fantastic history and culture. It's a chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences—all of which are free to explore. Brought to you by the National Trust, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and run by thousands of local organisations and volunteers, Heritage Open Days gives everyone free access to experiences and events across England. This year HOD’s will honour the English inventions and innovations we can’t live without. Alongside stories of wonders, the festival will highlight some of the blunders, fads and outright failures that pepper England’s rich history of innovation.

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