This text is a part of Ignored, a sequence of obituaries about exceptional folks whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Instances.
Greater than 60 years earlier than Kindles, Nooks, iPads and different digital units revolutionized studying, there was a gadget invented in a village in Spain that had the potential to do the identical.
The Enciclopedia Mecanica, or Mechanical Encyclopedia, because it was identified, was not the brainchild of a multinational company like Apple or Amazon; it was invented in 1948 by Ángela Ruiz Robles, a widowed instructor who wished to make studying simpler for her college students and her three daughters.
Her invention, a pale inexperienced field concerning the dimension of a textbook with an intricate inside, allowed a person to learn phrases in any language and on any matter, and was meant to lighten a scholar’s ebook load. Immediately it’s seen by many as an analog ancestor of the e-reader.
“What she invented carried on into the long run,” her grandson Daniel Gonzalez de la Rivera mentioned by telephone from his dwelling in Madrid.
He added: “Every time I see one I’m reminded of my grandmother.”
Inside the Mechanical Encyclopedia’s covers have been three horizontal spools that held scrolls, every of which may very well be swapped out for an additional, on a distinct matter. The scrolls would possibly maintain textual content, elaborate line drawings or decorative determine sketches, and the encyclopedia, which was battery operated, contained a small lightbulb, so customers might learn at midnight. Ruiz Robles created the machine, and the scrolls together with it, “to get most information with minimal effort,” as she informed the newspaper Pueblo in 1958.
The machine, which Ruiz Robles known as “a mechanical, electrical and air strain process for studying books,” acquired Spanish patent 190,698 in 1949. A prototype acquired one other patent, 276,346, when it was assembled in 1962 within the Ferrol Shipyard, with Robles overseeing the work.
A long time later, in November 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle, with a 6-inch digital ink display screen that allowed customers to obtain and skim some 88,000 books and magazines. The units offered out in lower than six hours. This yr, wordsrated.com, a analysis group dedicated to the publishing trade, reported that 15.92 million e-books have been being produced each month.
In her day, nevertheless, Ruiz Robles couldn’t muster a lot manufacturing assist. Regardless of repeated efforts, she didn’t persuade financiers to fund her creation, and it was by no means extensively produced.
Immediately, the prototype of Ruiz Robles’s Mechanical Encyclopedia is displayed on the Nationwide Museum of Science and Know-how in A Coruña, Spain, a supply of satisfaction for her nation and a testomony to what may need been.
Ángela Ruiz Robles was born on March 28, 1895, in Villamanín, a small city within the province of Leon in northwestern Spain. Her father, Feliciano Ruiz, a rich pharmacist, and mom, Elena Robles, a homemaker, ensured that she had a top-notch training. She graduated from a academics faculty in Leon, then taught there till 1916.
In 1918, Ruiz Robles moved to Santa Eugenia de Mandia, a village in Galicia close to the coast, the place she labored as a instructor till 1928. She then moved to close by Ferrol and based the Academia Elmaca.
The college, situated in her dwelling and named for her three daughters, Elena, Elvira and Maria Carmen, provided lessons by day and at night time served as a coaching floor for college students of little means. She additionally developed efficient academic strategies for college students with disabilities, typically exhibiting up at their properties to supply additional assist.
In 1934, Ruiz Robles grew to become supervisor of the Escuela Nacional de Niñas del Hospicio, a nationwide college for orphans in Ferrol, the place she helped ladies who would possibly in any other case be deprived to thrive in society.
She discovered nice that means in engaged on behalf of others.
“We come to this world not solely to reside our life as comfy as doable,” she informed Pueblo in 1958, “however to fret about others in order that they will profit from one thing provided by us.”
Between 1938 and 1946, Ruiz Robles revealed 16 textbooks, together with tutorials in spelling, grammar, syntax, shorthand and phonetics. However in 1946, her husband, Andres Grandal, a service provider marine, died of a coronary heart assault, leaving her to boost her three daughters alone.
Regardless of her appreciable home and instructing duties, Ruiz Robles devoted what spare time she needed to inventing a contemporary, interactive strategy to training.
Gonzalez de la Rivera described his grandmother as pushed, noting that she most well-liked the solitude of her workplace and the clacking of her typewriter keys to sitting in cafes or enjoying playing cards with mates.
“She by no means wasted time,” he mentioned. “She didn’t have a look at the birds. She was all the time working.”
“Can a very good inventor be a very good housewife on the identical time? Sure, sure, however it’s mandatory that the servants or folks round her don’t pressure her into in depth conversations of extraordinary issues,” she informed Pueblo. “Silence is crucial because it facilitates the gestation of these concepts which then favor the progress of the world.”
In 1947, Ruiz Robles was awarded the Cross of Alphonso X the Clever for her improvements within the subject of training, analysis and social work. In 1952, she was awarded a gold medal at an exhibition for Spanish inventors.
She spent the previous couple of years of her life in Madrid together with her daughter Maria Carmen, and he or she by no means gave up on having her invention manufactured. Ruiz Robles had presents to supply it in the US, however she shunned them, saying her creation needed to be made in Spain.
“I went together with her to totally different organizations and legal professionals to push her mechanical ebook,” mentioned Gonzalez de la Rivera. “I defined how the product labored and methods to make the ebook much less heavy. We made the rounds with out success. However my grandmother was by no means annoyed. I by no means keep in mind her telling me, ‘What a pity’ or ‘What a catastrophe.’ She was by no means frightened away.”
Ruiz Robles died on Oct. 27, 1975. She was 80.
In 2018, the Metropolis Council in Madrid permitted the naming of a road for her in that metropolis.
“She was one woman with three daughters and with out a husband,” mentioned Gonzalez de la Rivera, her grandson, including, “It’s unbelievable what she did.”
This text will seem in a brand new ebook, “Ignored,” a compilation of 66 obituaries out this fall.