Overlooked No More: Ángela Ruiz Robles, Inventor of an Early E-Reader

This write-up is part of Disregarded, a series of obituaries about impressive men and women whose fatalities, beginning in 1851, went unreported in The Times.

Additional than 60 many years ahead of Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other electronic gadgets revolutionized reading through, there was a gadget invented in a village in Spain that had the opportunity to do the same.

The Enciclopedia Mecanica, or Mechanical Encyclopedia, as it was regarded, was not the brainchild of a multinational company like Apple or Amazon it was invented in 1948 by Ángela Ruiz Robles, a widowed trainer who needed to make understanding much easier for her college students and her a few daughters.

Her creation, a pale environmentally friendly box about the measurement of a textbook with an intricate interior, authorized a consumer to go through words in any language and on any matter, and was supposed to lighten a student’s book load. Now it is observed by numerous as an analog ancestor of the e-reader.

“What she invented carried on into the upcoming,” her grandson Daniel Gonzalez de la Rivera claimed by mobile phone from his home in Madrid.

He included: “Each time I see one particular I am reminded of my grandmother.”

Within just the Mechanical Encyclopedia’s addresses were 3 horizontal spools that held scrolls, every single of which could be swapped out for yet another, on a distinct subject. The scrolls could keep text, elaborate line drawings or ornamental figure sketches, and the encyclopedia, which was battery operated, contained a little lightbulb, so end users could study in the dim. Ruiz Robles produced the product, and the scrolls alongside with it, “to get most understanding with bare minimum hard work,” as she advised the newspaper Pueblo in 1958.

The machine, which Ruiz Robles named “a mechanical, electrical and air strain technique for looking at books,” acquired Spanish patent 190,698 in 1949. A prototype been given yet another patent, 276,346, when it was assembled in 1962 in the Ferrol Shipyard, with Robles overseeing the perform.

A long time later, in November 2007, Amazon launched the Kindle, with a 6-inch electronic ink display screen that allowed buyers to obtain and read some 88,000 textbooks and magazines. The products offered out in less than six hours. This calendar year, wordsrated.com, a investigate firm devoted to the publishing business, documented that 15.92 million e-publications had been becoming manufactured each individual thirty day period.

In her day, even so, Ruiz Robles could not muster considerably manufacturing assistance. Inspite of repeated efforts, she failed to persuade financiers to fund her creation, and it was never greatly manufactured.

Right now, the prototype of Ruiz Robles’s Mechanical Encyclopedia is shown at the Countrywide Museum of Science and Technology in A Coruña, Spain, a source of pride for her place and a testament to what could possibly have been.

Ángela Ruiz Robles was born on March 28, 1895, in Villamanín, a tiny city in 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 leading-notch instruction. She graduated from a academics college or university in Leon, then taught there until 1916.

In 1918, Ruiz Robles moved to Santa Eugenia de Mandia, a village in Galicia in the vicinity of the coastline, where by she worked as a instructor until 1928. She then moved to nearby Ferrol and launched the Academia Elmaca.

The university, situated in her property and named for her a few daughters, Elena, Elvira and Maria Carmen, provided courses by day and at night time served as a education floor for students of minimal implies. She also created powerful educational approaches for students with disabilities, at times displaying up at their residences to present more support.

In 1934, Ruiz Robles grew to become supervisor of the Escuela Nacional de Niñas del Hospicio, a national school for orphans in Ferrol, wherever she served women who may well normally be disadvantaged to thrive in society.

She identified fantastic which means in working on behalf of many others.

“We come to this planet not only to stay our existence as cozy as feasible,” she explained to Pueblo in 1958, “but to get worried about many others so that they can benefit from a thing made available by us.”

In between 1938 and 1946, Ruiz Robles printed 16 textbooks, which include tutorials in spelling, grammar, syntax, shorthand and phonetics. But in 1946, her husband, Andres Grandal, a merchant maritime, died of a coronary heart attack, leaving her to increase her 3 daughters alone.

Even with her sizeable domestic and teaching responsibilities, Ruiz Robles devoted what spare time she experienced to inventing a present day, interactive strategy to education.

Gonzalez de la Rivera described his grandmother as driven, noting that she desired the solitude of her business office and the clacking of her typewriter keys to sitting down in cafes or actively playing playing cards with good friends.

“She never ever squandered time,” he reported. “She didn’t glance at the birds. She was often functioning.”

“Can a superior inventor be a good housewife at the exact time? Indeed, yes, but it is needed that the servants or folks about her do not pressure her into extensive discussions of standard things,” she instructed Pueblo. “Silence is necessary as it facilitates the gestation of individuals thoughts which then favor the progress of the planet.”

In 1947, Ruiz Robles was awarded the Cross of Alphonso X the Smart for her improvements in the industry of instruction, investigation and social do the job. In 1952, she was awarded a gold medal at an exhibition for Spanish inventors.

She invested the last few several years of her lifetime in Madrid with her daughter Maria Carmen, and she by no means gave up on possessing her creation produced. Ruiz Robles experienced presents to make it in the United States, but she shunned them, saying her creation had to be designed in Spain.

“I went with her to diverse companies and lawyers to push her mechanical e book,” mentioned Gonzalez de la Rivera. “I stated how the item labored and how to make the reserve considerably less major. We created the rounds with out good results. But my grandmother was in no way disappointed. I by no means remember her telling me, ‘What a pity’ or ‘What a catastrophe.’ She was never frightened absent.”

Ruiz Robles died on Oct. 27, 1975. She was 80.

In 2018, the Metropolis Council in Madrid approved the naming of a avenue for her in that town.

“She was a single girl with 3 daughters and without having a husband,” explained Gonzalez de la Rivera, her grandson, adding, “It is unbelievable what she did.”

This report will appear in a new e-book, “Overlooked,” a compilation of 66 obituaries out this fall.