Angela Ruiz

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Biography of Angela Ruiz Robles, a great Spanish teacher, educator of many other teachers. She is the forerunner of the digital book.

Possessed of a marked vocation for research, she wrote numerous educational books.

Angela Ruiz was the forerunner of the digital book

Her prodigious inventiveness and desire to improve teaching made her anticipate e-books by 20 years.

The writer and philanthropist Michael Hart, was the creator of the Gutenberg Project, in the year 1971. For this reason he is recognized worldwide as the inventor of the e-book.

However, the true creator of the first prototype of an electronic book was the Spanish Angela Ruiz Robles.

She did it in 1949, when she was 54 years old. She had accumulated 34 years of experience as a school teacher in León and Galicia.

Angela Ruiz called her invention “Mechanical Encyclopedia“. She described it as “a mechanical, electrical, and air pressure procedure for reading books“.

The mechanical encyclopedia was a seed of the e-book. Credit: Anabel Rodríguez, El Correo de Andalucía website

As she explained when she presented it to the authorities, the mechanical encyclopedia would be useful because:

  • Lighten the weight of student portfolios.
  • It makes learning more attractive and adapts teaching to the level of each student.
  • It is portable, weighs little, can be used at home and at school.
  • It has the possibility of adapting to students of all levels.
  • Facilitates learning in the dark, as the device incorporates light.
  • It helps those with vision problems.
  • Supports learning, with sounds.
  • You can use multiple languages.
  • It serves as a support for teachers to add their own materials.
  • Facilitates work for teachers and students.

This Spanish teacher was a remarkable inventor

With all propriety it can be said that the first electronic book was born in Ferrol thanks to Angela Ruiz Robles.

She patented this first proposal of “Mechanical Encyclopedia“, dated December 7, 1949. The patent has the number 190,698.

Her “Mechanical Encyclopedia” was called to revolutionize the concept of school books.

Angela Ruiz inventor
Angela Ruiz a remarkable inventor woman. Credit: web tve-con-Ciencia.

This invention consisted of patterned sheets. When you put your finger on them, they lit up and an educational text appeared.

For this to happen, she carried an electrical circuit that she designed herself.

The mechanical book was born. This book included any material and in it the information was represented in graphic, sound or textual form.

It could be made of waterproof and lightweight materials. It had the possibility of directly incorporating lighting and magnifying glasses.

Angela Ruiz’s pilgrimage through the ministerial offices

With the certainty that her invention was a good tool, she presented herself in Madrid. She kept a sketch and a detailed memory of the operation of her novel book.

Unfortunately, in Madrid, all were good words, but she did not receive any financial support so that she could develop that patent.

Undeterred, she kept thinking of a similar, but simpler, invention. Years later, she commissioned the Bazan National Company shipyards to manufacture a prototype.

On April 10, 1962, she registered patent No. 276346 entitled “An apparatus for various readings and exercises“. That prototype made of zinc and bronze was the Mechanical Encyclopedia.

  • It has no pages, the materials go in reels similar to the rolls of photographic films.
  • The coils can be changed depending on the subject studied by the student.
  • In addition, you can choose between Spanish, English and French.
  • Can carry sounds
  • You have the possibility of incorporating magnifying glasses.
  • Its size is that of an ordinary book
  • It is very easy to use.

One of the reels contained the alphabet and numbers. Which allowed writing texts and doing calculations.

With that physical prototype, she returned to undertake the pilgrimage to the ministries in the capital of the kingdom. Again the previous story was repeated: in Madrid, many pats on the back, but not a single penny.

Due to the circumstances of being a woman, a school and provincial teacher, her great invention was not properly valued.

When a woman finds support, the result can be amazing. Such was the case with Williamina Fleming. She was a Scottish maid recently immigrated to the United States, abandoned by her husband, and pregnant. She was fortunate to meet Charles Pickering, and became a famous astronomer.

Unfortunately, Angela Ruiz was not so lucky. And Spain lost a good opportunity to align itself among the countries that lead technological development.

Birth and early studies of Angela Ruiz Robles

Angela Ruiz Robles was born on March 28, 1895, in Villamanín, a municipality in the province of León.

Her parents were Elena Robles and Feliciano Ruiz.

Angela completed her higher studies at the Leon School of Teaching, founded in 1843.

The city of León, famous for its beautiful cathedral. Credit: León City Council website

Angela Ruiz Robles’ teaching work

She exercised her teaching activity for two years, between 1915 and 1916, in the same School of Teaching, in León.

Angela Ruiz taught her first shorthand, typing and business accounting classes there.

In 1917 she was a teacher and director at the Gordón school, a town located near the city of León.

The following year she obtained the teaching position in Santa Eugenia de Mandia, a village near Ferrol, in Galicia.

Santa Eugenia or Santa Uxia, in Galician. Credit: web

From the first day her students realized that she was a different teacher.

Furthermore, her pedagogical work did not end at school. Doña Angelita, who called her that, visited her students in their homes. This way she managed to give them more personalized attention according to their needs.

He was in Santa Eugenia until 1928; and since then she always remained in Galicia.

On December 18, 1925, the residents of the village awarded her a special distinction for her indisputable merits.

The entire town was grateful to her for her dedication to teaching children.

In 1934 she carried out an important job as manager of the National Girls School of the Hospice, in Ferrol. This hospice cared for orphaned or abandoned girls.

Doña Angelita made sure they learned a trade so that they could integrate into society.

Already established with the family in Ferrol, she suffered a severe blow: the death of her husband.

Mother of three daughters, housewife and teacher. She had little time left to regret her sudden widowhood.

The nights at Angela Ruiz’s house, once the girls were in bed, were her ideal time to investigate. Stealing hours from sleep, she dedicated herself to preparing tools that will make learning easier for her students.

Angela Ruiz was a writer, researcher and inventor

Between 1938 and 1946 she wrote, lectured, edited and republished most of her pedagogical work; total, sixteen books.

The first three were: “Compendium of Castilian Orthography”, “Castilian Orthography” and “Modern Abbreviated Martinian Shorthand“.

Angela Ruiz needed to support her family, help society and fulfill her pedagogical ideals.

For this, she founded the Elmaca Academy (by her daughters Elena, Elvira and M.ª Carmen). She taught classes to opponents of customs, mail and telegraphs. She also gave classes for entry into high business studies.

The pass statistics of those who passed through her center were the highest in all of Spain. Elmaca Academy was synonymous with success.

An essential part of her pedagogical method consisted of participation and interaction. For this, she needed tools that the Ministry of Education did not contemplate, did not provide or, directly, did not exist.

The teacher Ángela Ruiz thought that if it does not exist, it is invented. And she got to it.

In 1944, she carried out the “Scientific-Grammatical Atlas” project. Her purpose was to make Spain known, while grammar, syntax, morphology, spelling and phonetics were taught.

She then developed another project: “The steno machine“.

Angela Ruiz’s commitment to those most in need

In her Academy, Doña Angelita gave free night classes to people with few resources.

Ferrol is a city in La Coruña, in Galicia. Credit: web

In 1945 she was a teacher at the free Workers’ School.

During the year 1948 she taught shorthand, spelling, grammar and typing at Colegio Ibáñez Martín.

Eleven years later, in 1959, she accepted the position of director of the Colegio Ibáñez Martín, which she maintained until her retirement.

Her teaching work can be cited as the pride of Spain.

Later acknowledgments of her inventions

In 1962 a prototype of the “Mechanical Encyclopedia” was made. It was built in the Ferrol Artillery Park. She herself was able to direct the work.

In 1970 Angela Ruiz rejected a proposal to exploit her patents in the United States. She wanted it to be developed in Spain “because Ferrol was her birthplace“.

Since 2006, the “Mechanical Encyclopedia” has been part of the Exhibition of the Pedagogical Museum of Galicia, in Santiago de Compostela.

In 2012, the Encyclopedia was transferred to the Exhibition of the National Museum of Science and Technology in La Coruña.

Doña Angela Ruiz is represented in this Exhibition by three important devices that are of her invention:

  • The shorthand machine.
  • A grammatical linguistic atlas.
  • The mechanical encyclopedia.

Death of Angela Ruiz Robles, Mrs. Angelita

She died in Ferrol (La Coruña) on October 27, 1975.

She is buried in the family pantheon of the Serantes cemetery, Ferrol.

Google pays tribute to Angela Ruiz Robles. Credit: web 03/28/2016

Awards and recognitions to the great teacher

In 1947, she received the Cross of Alfonso X the Wise, for her social work and her pedagogical innovations.

Starting in the 1950s, Angela Ruiz did not stop receiving awards and honors for her great pedagogical work.

  • 1952: Gold Medal and Diploma in the 1st National Exhibition of Spanish Inventors.
  • 1957: Oscar for invention at the Zaragoza National and Official Fair.
  • 1957: Bronze Medal at the International Dog Show in Brussels.
  • 1958: Bronze Medal for pedagogical innovations in Brussels.
  • 1959: She was appointed Delegate Manager of the Spanish Inventors for the Galicia Region.
  • 1963: Silver Medal at the International Exhibition of Inventions in Brussels.
  • 1964: Diploma and Medal at the Seville Exhibition.
  • 1968: Geneva Medal to Spanish inventors.
  • 1970: Exhibition in the Inventive Hall at the Palacio de Cristal in Madrid.
  • 1973: She was appointed Provincial Chief of the Scientific Polytechnic Federation of International Inventive.

Since 1973, she belonged to the Scientific Polytechnic Federation of Inventive International as an Engineer in Inventive and Scientific Research.

The Madrid City Council agreed to give the name Angela Ruiz to a street in the Villaverde district. It is a tribute from the capital of Spain to one of the most relevant and least known Spanish inventors.

Angela Ruiz Robles is included in the “Periodic Table of Women Scientists“. In 2019, the “International Year of the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements” is celebrated. The 150th anniversary of Mendeléyev’s publication is commemorated.

In 1998, the Ferrol City Council paid tribute to all her work carried out at the Ibáñez Martín Public School.

Between 2009 and 2010 the Ferrol City Council incorporated her biography in the Ferrol en Femenino publications.

In October 2011, the Higher Technical School of Computer Engineering and Telecommunications of the University of Granada paid tribute to her as the forerunner of the e-book.

Her name appeared in the catalog of the Patent Law in Spain edited by the Ministry of Industry, in 2011.

In 2012, Angela Ruiz Robles appeared in the digital edition: “100 years of technological evolution of Inventive International”. She is mentioned as an Engineer in Inventive and Scientific Research.

In 2013, the Ministries of Economy and Education published the book: “Ángela Ruiz Robles and the invention of the mechanical book”.

The publication includes the patents of 1949 and 1962 that Angela Ruíz Robles presented for her “mechanical, electrical and air pressure procedure for reading books” and “the mechanical encyclopedia”.

The monograph has an annex with images of the prototypes.

It also includes a set of studies and reflections on a figure that unfortunately is little known.

In that same year, the Scientific Computer Society of Spain, in convening a new edition of the National Computer Awards, created the Angela Ruiz Robles Award.

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