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Missed No Extra: Ángela Ruiz Robles, Inventor of an Early E-Reader

This text is a part of Missed, a sequence of obituaries about exceptional folks whose deaths, starting in 1851, went unreported in The Occasions.

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 recognized, 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 studying simpler for her college students and her three daughters.

Her invention, a pale inexperienced field in regards to the dimension of a textbook with an intricate inside, allowed a person to learn phrases in any language and on any subject, and was meant to lighten a scholar’s e-book load. In the present day 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 stated by cellphone from his house in Madrid.

He added: “Every time I see one I’m reminded of my grandmother.”

Inside the Mechanical Encyclopedia’s covers had been three horizontal spools that held scrolls, every of which may very well be swapped out for an additional, on a distinct subject. The scrolls may maintain textual content, elaborate line drawings or decorative determine sketches, and the encyclopedia, which was battery operated, contained a small lightbulb, so customers may learn in the dead of night. Ruiz Robles created the gadget, and the scrolls together with it, “to get most information with minimal effort,” as she advised the newspaper Pueblo in 1958.

The machine, which Ruiz Robles known as “a mechanical, electrical and air strain process for studying books,” obtained Spanish patent 190,698 in 1949. A prototype obtained 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 that allowed customers to obtain and browse some 88,000 books and magazines. The units bought out in lower than six hours. This 12 months,, a analysis group dedicated to the publishing business, reported that 15.92 million e-books had 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 broadly produced.

In the present day, the prototype of Ruiz Robles’s Mechanical Encyclopedia is displayed on the Nationwide Museum of Science and Expertise in A Coruña, Spain, a supply of satisfaction for her nation and a testomony to what might 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 schooling. She graduated from a academics school 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 trainer till 1928. She then moved to close by Ferrol and based the Academia Elmaca.

The college, positioned in her house and named for her three daughters, Elena, Elvira and Maria Carmen, supplied lessons by day and at night time served as a coaching floor for college students of little means. She additionally developed efficient instructional strategies for college students with disabilities, typically exhibiting up at their properties to supply further assist.

In 1934, Ruiz Robles turned supervisor of the Escuela Nacional de Niñas del Hospicio, a nationwide faculty for orphans in Ferrol, the place she helped ladies who may 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 stay our life as snug as attainable,” she advised Pueblo in 1958, “however to fret about others in order that they will profit from one thing supplied 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 educating duties, Ruiz Robles devoted what spare time she needed to inventing a contemporary, interactive method to schooling.

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 pals.

“She by no means wasted time,” he stated. “She didn’t have a look at the birds. She was at all times working.”

“Can a very good inventor be a very good housewife on the identical time? Sure, sure, however it’s obligatory that the servants or folks round her don’t power her into intensive conversations of peculiar issues,” she advised Pueblo. “Silence is important 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 Smart for her improvements within the subject of schooling, 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 along with her daughter Maria Carmen, and he or she by no means gave up on having her invention manufactured. Ruiz Robles had gives to provide it in the US, however she shunned them, saying her creation needed to be made in Spain.

“I went along with her to completely different organizations and attorneys to push her mechanical e-book,” stated Gonzalez de la Rivera. “I defined how the product labored and the best way to make the e-book much less heavy. We made the rounds with out success. However my grandmother was by no means annoyed. I by no means bear 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 accredited the naming of a avenue for her in that metropolis.

“She was one girl with three daughters and and not using a husband,” stated Gonzalez de la Rivera, her grandson, including, “It’s unimaginable what she did.”

This text will seem in a brand new e-book, “Missed,” a compilation of 66 obituaries out this fall.

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