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Woman inventor's design enabled Brunel and Telford to build their iconic bridges

(10 Posts)
grimbletart Tue 31-May-16 13:50:22

One of the criticisms levelled at women claiming equality has come from sexist men (NAMALT obviously) that all the world's important inventions have been done by men and we would all be living in mud huts still were it not for them.

As we know, that's rubbish. Women have always been inventors and made important discoveries even though they could not always patent their inventions directly in the past, or did it through their husbands.

But I didn't realise that Brunel used a design for piling foundations in his famous Bristol suspension bridge that was invented by Sarah Guppy. She also did the same for Thomas Telford's Menai Bridge.

Apparently she did not patent it in her own name but as the Guppy family and gave the design to Brunel free, along with advice to Brunel on building the GWR railway "because women should not be boastful".

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/30/the-female-engineer-behind-bristols-iconic-bridge-mum-of-six-who/

It shows how even clever inventive women were so socialised to lack self esteem that they colluded with society in putting themselves down.

The Telegraph says:" But despite Mrs Guppy being famous in Bristol in her own lifetime, it was more for her flamboyant social life than for her incredible mind."

Not much changes does it?

I can't quite decide if that makes me sad or angry. So sad angry

BaboonBottom Tue 31-May-16 13:58:13

This reminds me of the story of Bertha Benz
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bertha_Benz

She paid for her husband to invent the car, took the car without telling him and went to her mum's. On the way she invented the brake pad.

Its incredibly sad they couldn't have the success in their own name and right

SurelyYoureJokingMrFeynman Tue 31-May-16 13:59:16

Thank you so much for posting this! I'd never heard of her, and engineering in the Industrial Revolution is one of the things I'm really interested in.

2nds Tue 31-May-16 14:20:47

My fiancé is a senior design engineer and is head of his department. He was showing me a Design that he'd been working on for a while and me not knowing much about design or metal work I managed to pick up on what I immediately thought was a major safety flaw. He had actually designed this in accordance with what his customer wanted. When I alerted him to the flaw he called his associate and the associate met with the customer The customer who was owner of his own company told my fiancé that I was wrong and to go ahead with what he had done.

He finishes off the design and about three months go past and he gets a phonecall from the customer. The customer admitted that the flaw was indeed a flaw and so my fiancé had to go back to the design to change it which took him quite sometime to change due to other commitments. Overlooking my concerns had cost the customer a lot of time and money and had set his business back at least 3 months, but another reason why I look back on it all and feel a bit put off by it is because he ( the customer) never told my fiancé to pass on a message of thanks to me for alerting them to their mistake in the first place. Sometimes I think had I been a man I'd have been sent a crate of wine and taken out to dinner by the customer lol.

I know it's not the same thing, but I did feel at the time that I was being looked over and dismissed by three men simply because their field of work is predominantly male and not because I know sweet FA about engineering.

SwearyInn Tue 31-May-16 14:24:06

I agree - women have been denied the opportunity to either participate in science or where they did, not recognised for their discoveries.

I'm currently reading a (laymans) book on quantum computing. I do have a degree in physics so am quite familiar with many of the grandfathers of quantum mechanics such as Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein, Pauli etc. What I had never known until today is that a key discovery was made by Grete Hermann which challenged one of the fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics in 1934. She discussed her finding with Heinsenberg (of all people) but her theory was dismissed/never taken seriosily as she was challenging Johnny von Neumann who "never got the maths wrong" (even though Heisenberg realised she was into something). It could have been a case of young researcher vs old established name i.e. gender irrelevant, but suspect the fact it was a woman meant it was far easier to dismiss her. But the fact was - as a woman she was never in a strong position to be able to defend her discovery. But she was right (I think - I haven't got to end of book but that's where it's leading!)

Suspect there are many other Guppy's, Benz' and Hermann's out there.

The sooner the misogynists realise it's opportunity, rather than biological inferiority, that hinder women in STEM subjects, the better. I think it's happening, but slowly.

(I hope the above makes sense - typing on my phone which is not easy)

SomeDyke Tue 31-May-16 20:18:35

..........and Grete studied under Emmy Noether! The issue for me is that even when women do something significant and have a theorem to their name (Noethers Theorem), unless you know who they are, you don't know that it is a woman.

Also, name changing upon marriage further obscures womens involvement. How many more?

I'm waiting to see museum dioramas (or even bloody New Scientist illustrations!), that include women doing something other than standing around combing their hair, cooking, or feeding baby. The first (stone) technology surely included women just as much as men, as users and makers and innovators.

SwearyInn Tue 31-May-16 22:08:44

And I hadn't ever heard of Emmy Noether! Which kind of proves a point....

And I totally agree on positive illustration/reference to women in STEM information - the perpetuated image of the mad wacky and always-male scientists completely deters girls from selecting the "manly" subjects. (I know this is a slightly different pint to yours, but related I think)

Felascloak Wed 01-Jun-16 00:21:24

What a great thread!

ChocChocPorridge Wed 01-Jun-16 08:05:53

I see the word 'deter' and I don't feel it's quite right - it's like those articles which declare that women don't go into IT because it's full of spotty male nerds (as if finding a husband was why women went to work).

I think it's more than deter - I think it's that you don't even realise it's a possibility - you can only be deterred if you ever look into trying it!

SwearyInn Wed 01-Jun-16 08:41:53

Respectfully, I think deter is the correct word as the choice to go down a scientific path starts at school with the subjects you choose to study. I'm sure all girls (and I mean girls, not women) are very aware of the all the subjects available to them at school but they choose not to study them. To me, this is because they have somehow been deterred by the subjects due to being put off by negative stereotyping, lack of role-models and it being unclear what future careers there may be. I think at that critical age they have been well and truly deterred.

Further down the career path, if they have started in the STEM subjects, perhaps your point is valid as some women may be unaware or even have access to certain career paths - though I have to say that doesn't hold out amongst my contemporaries.

It is absolutely critical to promote the STEM subjects from as early an age as possible (start at primary) to ensure girls are very aware that science is as relevant to them as it is to the boys. But science has a HUGE and unjustified image problem (and this deters the boys too).

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