Talent 2030

Write about a female engineer/scientist/innovator who inspires you: Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson
(Inventor of windscreen wipers)
by Thomas Elder, age 12, Radnor House Sevenoaks


“Mary Anderson was an inventor from Birmingham, Alabama. She was born on 19 February 1866, but it wasn’t until 1903 on a frosty day in New York that she came up with her invention. This would be something that would change cars forever and make it easier for drivers to see through their windscreens.

While she was driving through New York in her taxi [trolley car] she noticed that the driver had to keep getting out of the car to clean his windscreen. This prevented Mary from seeing all the attractions in New York like tall buildings, crowded streets etc, instead of thinking about the attractions she started thinking of how she could make the driver’s life a lot easier by inventing something that could clean the snow and rain off the windscreen.

After a lot of failure Mary finally managed to create the first pair of windscreen wipers in 1903. It was a long arm with a rubber blade at the end. They could be controlled from inside the car by pushing a handle. But Mary wasn’t as successful as anticipated. She failed to sell her invention to any companies because they struggled to see the importance of it. So it was forgotten until the 1940s and 50s. By then cars had become more of an essential thing for people to travel around, so many other inventors made copies of them. But by then Mary was near the end of her life and sadly she died in 1953 without getting the credit she deserved.

Mary inspires me because even though she didn’t get much credit at the time for her invention she still kept on trying to sell it and make it better. She has effectively created a law because it is now illegal not to have windscreen wipers on your car, that idea Mary had on a snowy day in New York.”

Interested in Mary Anderson’s work? Click here for more information.

Click here to read the other winning blogs about inspirational women in STEM.

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