We’ve all likely heard the story of Robert Kearns, inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, because of his David and Goliath battles with the big three auto companies.
But do you know who thought up the idea of a windshield wiper in the first place? It was a lady by the name of Mary Anderson. And she thought up the idea even before cars existed!
Well, motor cars or automobiles that is. Mary’s invention was for then popular mass transit, electric street cars. While riding one day, she felt sorry for the operator who had to keep poking his head out the window to see in the rain. Deciding to try and solve the problem, she made a drawing of a mechanical wiper, turned manually from inside the cab, and received a patent for it in 1903.
Mary Anderson never profited from her patent like Robert Kearns finally did, but she is due heaps of belated recognition for thinking up a most needed device we assume should come with every car.
You can view Mary Anderson’s patent for a Window-Cleaning Device, U.S. Pat. No. 743,801, and drawing courtesy of Google patent search.