Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
Leading the charge in alternative energies well before her time, Telkes designed the first residential solar heating system. Born in 1900 in Hungary, she went on to earn a doctoral degree in physical chemistry and immigrated to the United States, doing solar energy research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University. In addition to inventing a solar oven, she built the solar heating system for an experimental solar heated house in Massachusetts that is still in use today.
Elizabeth Coleman White
Elizabeth White is credited with introducing the first cultivated blueberry to the United States. She grew up on her father’s cranberry farm in New Jersey, which gave her an interest in industrial agriculture. Collaborating with Frederick Colville, they learned how to take wild blueberries, which grew in abundance near her farm, and turn them into a commercial commodity. In 1916, they marketed the first commercial blueberry under the name Tru-Blu-Berries. They also introduced cellophane packaging of blueberries.
Inventor of Foxfibre Colored Cotton, Sally Fox contributed immensely to improving the environmental impact of cotton textile production. Because hand spinning colored cotton is so expensive, most manufacturers bleach, dye, and spin white cotton, which, due to the bleach and dyes, creates a large amount of environmental pollution. In the late 1980s, Sally Fox learned how to breed green and brown cotton. She bought some land and began to grow these cultivars, and by the 1990s, had a booming business that produced naturally-colored cotton for large manufacturers like Levi’s, Land’s End, and L.L. Bean.
Rachel Fuller Brown and Elizabeth Lee Hazen
Working for the New York State Department of Health in two different cities, Rachel Fuller and Elizabeth Hazen worked together to develop a widely successful antifungal drug. Working in two different cities (Fuller in Albany and Hazen in New York City) they shared their research information over the mail. In 1954, the FDA approved their drug, nystatin. The drug was used to treat infections that were previously untreatable; it also treated environmental molds. They also donated all of their thirteen million dollars in nystatin royalties to academic scientific research.
Reading about these amazing women makes inventions—or striving toward them—seem possible.