UPDATED 3/26: We’ve advanced to the Elite Eight in our Innovation Madness! Check out the updated bracket here.
With the first week of the NCAA Tournament now over, college basketball lovers are on the edge of their seats, having witnessed huge upsets and historic comebacks. For many of us, filling out a bracket year after year and seeing how our teams did allows us to be a part of this annual tradition. Yet, perhaps the best thing about March Madness and its iconic brackets are that that they can be applied to just about anything…
That’s right—we’re putting our own twist on March Madness and introducing… Innovation Madness! In celebration of Women’s History Month, we developed a special bracket to help recognize the remarkable women who have been influential innovators in exploration, business and the STEM fields—yet are not recognized as often as their male counterparts. The challenge starts today and we invite you to join in on the fun!
As the remaining teams make their way from the Sweet 16 to the championship, so too will we! Follow along as we highlight each staff member’s favorite female pioneer. And just like the NCAA’s lead-in to the Final Four, along the way we will narrow down the field in head-to-head matchups. But instead of dunks and three-pointers, each matchup’s winner will be decided by your votes. While all female innovators are winners in our eyes, with this challenge one will ultimately rise to the top.
To participate, simply tweet the #InnovationMadness hashtag of your favorite innovator in each matchup to help them advance in the tournament and raise awareness of these fearless innovators. (You can vote for as many innovators as you’d like, as often as you’d like.) As an added bonus, we’ll randomly choose Twitter handles of people who participate in voting to receive an exclusive Be Fearless Innovation Madness pack. So be sure to vote and cheer your hero on to victory!
MATCHUP ONE: Melitta Bentz vs. Mary Anderson
#InnovationMadness1: Melitta Bentz, creator of the coffee filter
Chosen by Jessica Zetzman, Digital Marketing and Communications Manager
Melitta Bentz might not be a household name, but her innovation certainly is. If you are one of the more than 150 million Americans who enjoy grounds-free, non-bitter coffee every morning, you have Melitta Bentz and her patented 1908 innovation, the coffee filter, to thank.
Vote for Melitta Bentz by tweeting #InnovationMadness1.
#InnovationMadness2: Mary Anderson, inventor of windshield wipers
Chosen by Julia Power, Office Coordinator
There are about 253 million cars and trucks on U.S. roads today. Before Anderson’s 1903 invention of the windshield wiper, drivers would have to stop their car every few minutes to physically wipe the buildup from their windshield. Not only was this inefficient, but it was also extremely dangerous! Anderson’s invention has been helping drivers with their commutes ever since.
Vote for Mary Anderson by tweeting #InnovationMadness2.
MATCHUP TWO: Stephanie Kwolek vs. Amelia Earhart
#InnovationMadness3: Stephanie Kwolek, creator of Kevlar
Chosen by Coleen Walsh, Executive Assistant
Thanks to a determined Pennsylvania woman named Stephanie Kwolek, thousands of lives have been saved. In 1971 while working at DuPont as one of its only female chemists, Kwolek created a fiber called poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide—better known as Kevlar. Five times stronger than steel, this invaluable synthetic material has since been used in more than 200 applications, including safety helmets, aircraft parts, suspension bridge cables, parachutes and most notably bulletproof vests.
Vote for Stephanie Kwolek by tweeting #InnovationMadness3.
#InnovationMadness4: Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer
Chosen by Allyson Burns, SVP of Communications and Marketing
Amelia Earhart is oft-cited when it comes to female innovators—and for good reason. An aviation pioneer and record setter, she was truly fearless. Her willingness to break barriers for women wasn’t limited to just aviation—she was also a tireless advocate for equal rights and helped transform the way women view themselves and their opportunities in the world.
Vote for Amelia Earhart by tweeting #InnovationMadness4.
MATCHUP THREE: Ada Lovelace vs. Dr. Virginia Apgar
#InnovationMadness5: Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer
Chosen by Lauren Burton, Senior Director of Interactive Strategies
Your best friend’s latest post on your news feed. That movie you have been meaning to see suggested on your Netflix. A product recommended for you on Amazon. What do these have in common? They are powered by algorithms! You can thank Ada Lovelace, who is credited with developing the first algorithm in 1842 intended to be carried out by a machine. She is sometimes known as “the first computer programmer.”
Vote for Ada Lovelace by tweeting #InnovationMadness5.
#InnovationMadness6: Dr. Virginia Apgar, creator of the “Apgar Score”
Chosen by Louise Storm, Chief of Staff to the CEO
The phrase “Apgar Score” may only be familiar to you if you’ve been in a labor and delivery room, but chances are you’ve benefitted from it. Devised by Dr. Virginia Apgar in 1953 as the first standardized method of evaluating newborns at birth, and five minutes after birth, this eponymous score has enabled doctors and nurses to know how to best take care of their newest patients for decades.
Vote for Dr. Virginia Apgar by tweeting #InnovationMadness6.
MATCHUP FOUR: Lizzie J. Magie vs. Josephine Cochrane
#InnovationMadness7: Lizzie J. Magie, creator of the Monopoly game
Chosen by Sheila Herrling, Vice President of Social Innovation
In 1903, Lizzy Magie was troubled by the vast income inequality she saw, and a capitalist system that could either put private capital to public good (think early impact investing), or benefit the few already well off. She used that personal passion to invent the board game—Landlord. The original game had rules that allowed players to live and learn the tension between and tactics for pursuing the two philosophies. Many believe that this game was the inspiration for Charles Darrow, who in 1932 turned it into Monopoly and sold it to Parker Brothers. Lizzy Magie fought for its rights, received $500 for the Landlord’s patent (no royalties) and her role as true founder of the Monopoly concept continues to be debated in the history books, but you can vote her into victory here!
Vote for Lizzie J. Magie by tweeting #InnovationMadness7.
#InnovationMadness8: Josephine Cochrane, inventor of the dishwasher
Chosen by Arlene Corbin Lewis, Vice President of Communications
It’s said that Josephine Cochrane once declared, “If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I’ll do it myself!” After washing one dinner plate too many, Cochrane took matters into her own dishpan hands and invented this kitchen essential in the late 1800’s. She went on to start a company to manufacture the dishwashers, which eventually became KitchenAid. From Cochrane’s moxie, to the soap, water, time and money the dishwasher saves, there’s a lot to love about this household appliance.
Vote for Josephine Cochrane by tweeting #InnovationMadness8.
MATCHUP FIVE: Madam C.J. Walker vs. Marie Van Brittan Brown
#InnovationMadness9: Madam C.J. Walker, hair care entrepreneur
Chosen by Jean Case, CEO
Madam C. J. Walker was an American entrepreneur, philanthropist and a political and social activist. When she began suffering from a scalp ailment that caused her to lose her own hair, she invented a line of hair care products to improve her condition. She started traveling and selling her product line to help others. Before long, her savvy business skills lead her to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of her time. Eulogized in 1919 as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country and an influential philanthropist, leaving two-thirds of her estate to charity when she passed away.
Vote for Madam C.J. Walker by tweeting #InnovationMadness9.
#InnovationMadness10: Marie Van Brittan Brown, creator of the home security system
Chosen by Jade Floyd, Senior Director of Communications
Today’s home security systems feature all the bells and whistles, from infrared cameras to home automation technology to electronic control of every light and lock. But did you know that the first modern-day home security closed-circuit television system (CCTV), alarm and entry buzzer to allow guests in was invented by Marie Van Brittan Brown in 1966? An uptick in crime in her neighborhood drove her to create the system so she would feel safer while at home alone. She invented the remote monitor and control-operated door that laid the groundwork for a now multi-billion dollar market.
Vote for Marie Van Brittan Brown by tweeting #InnovationMadness10.
MATCHUP SIX: Rosalind Franklin vs. Marion Donovan
#InnovationMadness11: Rosalind Franklin, contributor to DNA structure discovery
Chosen by Molly Porter, Senior Project Manager
Rosalind Franklin was a pioneer in molecular biology and chemistry. Her work in x-ray diffraction techniques of DNA was a catalyst in the understanding of the structure of DNA. While her contributions to the scientific community were largely unrecognized or misattributed to other scientists during her lifetime, her discoveries unleashed endless potential for greater understanding of DNA and genetics for further generations of scientists.
Vote for Rosalind Franklin by tweeting #InnovationMadness11.
#InnovationMadness12: Marion Donovan, creator of the disposable diaper
Chosen by Emily Yu, Vice President of Marketing and Partnerships
Frustrated by the thankless, repetitive task of changing her youngest child’s soiled cloth diapers, bed sheets and clothing, Marion Donovan decided to craft a waterproof diaper cover to keep her baby—and the surrounding area—dry. Unlike the rubber baby pants that were already on the market, Donovan’s design did not cause diaper rash and did not pinch the child’s skin. Her next project was a fully disposable diaper, for which she had to fashion a special type of paper that was not only strong and absorbent, but also conveyed water away from the baby’s skin. Donovan’s inventions have changed the lives of babies—and parents—ever since.
Vote for Marion Donovan by tweeting #InnovationMadness12.
MATCHUP SEVEN: Madeleine Vionnet vs. Grace Hopper
#InnovationMadness13: Madeleine Vionnet, creator of the bias cut
Chosen by Sean Tennerson, Social Innovation Program Assistant
Madeleine Vionnet may not be a name you hear much outside of the history of women’s fashion, but her innovative approach to women’s clothing will have shaped many of the pieces in your own closet. Vionnet was determined to break from tradition in fashion and liberate the female body from stays and corsets. She went on to invent the bias cut, and through the inspiration of Greek art, created garments that celebrated the shape and movement of a woman’s body—clinging to and fluidly following its natural movement. She was so committed to designing dresses that represent the personality of the wearer that she was known to say, “when a woman smiles, then her dress should smile too.”
Vote for Madeleine Vionnet by tweeting #InnovationMadness13.
#InnovationMadness14: Dr. Grace Murray Hopper, inventor of the first computer compiler
Chosen by Brian Sasscer, Senior Vice President of Strategic Operations
Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral) co-designed Harvard’s Mark 1 computer in 1944. She also invented the first computer compiler, which translated written language into computer code. As if that wasn’t enough, she helped lead the development of COBOL—one of the first user-friendly programming languages. FUN FACT—she is credited with making popular the terms “bug” and “debug” to describe a computer glitch—which in this case happened to be an actual moth in the computer. No wonder she is sometimes referred to as #AmazingGrace.
Vote for Dr. Grace Murray Hopper by tweeting #InnovationMadness14.
MATCHUP EIGHT: Hedy Lamarr vs. Susan Kare
#InnovationMadness15: Hedy Lamarr, creator of spread spectrum technology
Chosen by Fatimah Shaikh, Social Innovation Intern
Hedy Lamarr was not only a 1930s movie star, she also gave us an invention that still stands at the forefront of technology even today: the spread spectrum. With the help of Georg Antheil, an experimental musician, Lamarr invented the Secret Communications System, which they tried to give to the U.S. military during WWII. However, it was not until the Cuban Missile Crisis that the value of spread spectrum was realized. Today, Lamarr’s Secret Communication System is the backbone of all technological machines with wireless operations.
Vote for Hedy Lamarr by tweeting #InnovationMadness15.
#InnovationMadness16: Susan Kare, Apple designer
Chosen by Tess Diefendorf, Communications Intern
If you are a Mac computer owner then you have seen the designs created by Susan Kare. Kare is an artist and graphic designer who was part of the original Apple Macintosh design team. During her time at Apple in the 1980s, Kare designed many typefaces, icons and original marketing materials. She created the Chicago, Monaco and Geneva typeface, which are still widely used today. Her countless designs helped create the first taste of human-computer interaction.
Vote for Susan Kare by tweeting #InnovationMadness16.