February 7, 2013

Inventor Portrait: Esther Takeuchi

One issue I’m conscious of in my Inventor Portraits series is that it’s not very gender balanced. Of the forty-something inventors I’ve photographed and interviewed so far, only eight are women. There have been other women under consideration, but in an effort to keep the inventions varied, I’ve passed on some that were too similar. I can only have so many women who invent products for the closet, baby room, or kitchen before it begins to give the impression that women only come up with domestic inventions. Those kinds of inventions are certainly important and useful, but my project strives to be broader in its subject matter.

So when I reached out to Esther Takeuchi, a chemical engineer whose life-saving developments in batteries for implantable medical devices have saved millions of lives, I was delighted that she said yes. She’s a terrific role model for women in science, and yet she expresses her own frustrations with exclusion in her field.

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Thank you for taking gender balance into consideration, and for going the extra step to try and include inventions by women outside the ‘domestic’ sphere. Not that inventions making child-rearing, cleaning or organizing easier are lesser; heck, the Shakers were all about making domestic work easier and I love them for it. But considering we still live in a world where ‘Science: It’s a Girl Thing!’ was thought totally ok to write, film, and show to attract girls to science, there’s still so far to go.