Disunion discusses a rare duck: Lady scientist of the 1860s, Martha Coston. Nice to see that the Coston name remained tied to the product, though I wonder how many flare users were aware that the Coston in question wore petticoats?
Coston made her mark in history because she needed to survive, after her husband´s untimely death. At age 16, Coston eloped with the promising Boston scientist Benjamin Franklin Coston, who headed the Navy´s pyrotechnic laboratory. She had four children with him over the next five years. Apparently due to his work with toxic materials, Benjamin Coston died a somewhat mysterious death in 1848, leaving his 21-year-old widow and children nearly penniless.
Luckily, Martha Coston had followed her husband’s work, and knew that he had developed a revolutionary new signaling system: a wand signal that displayed three colors on a rotating rod. On the advice of Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey, Coston persuaded the home fleet to test the signal prototypes her husband had crafted. After testing it, Commodore Hiram Paulding wrote Coston that the idea was an excellent one.
But because her husband died in mid-development, he hadn’t left much behind in the way of schematics or formulas. Coston basically had to start from scratch to determine how to make the signal lights. Over many months Coston labored tirelessly to perfect the flare signals.