Women Engineers You Should Know!
How many people inspire you daily? What characteristics do you look for in a role-model? Courageous, strong, intelligent women have had the most profound effect on me personally as mentors to look up to. Brave women, unafraid to enter into unknown waters, industries they are not always dominant in, and never willing to take “no” for an answer. Especially when it comes to chasing their dreams! In honor of Women’s History Month, we’ve decided to shout out three impressive women engineers, who have impacted the industry, each in their own way! Ready to meet some history-makers?!
1. Elizabeth Bragg Cumming
Women have been making history and carving the path for others since the beginning of time. For this industry icon, we’re going to travel all the way back to the 1800’s! Born in San Francisco California, Elizabeth Bragg Cumming had grown up highly skilled in mathematics; foreshadowing her wave-paving engineering future. She attended a preparatory high school; attached to the University of California at Berkeley. Already showing off her advanced intelligence, it is from there she completed classes to graduate high school. Proceeding this; it was straight to civil engineering!
Elizabeth Bragg Cumming paid no mind to the opinion of others, that the engineering industry was no place for women. Instead, she graduated in 1876 from the College of Civil Engineering with her Senior Thesis “A Solution of a Peculiar Problem of Surveying.”
Therefore, Elizabeth is arguably the first woman with a civil engineering degree from an American University! Certainly adding her to the list of Women Engineers you should know!
After graduating she became a teacher, sharing knowledge with others, until her marriage; at which point she retired and became a full-time mother and homemaker. Later, in 1929 she passed away at 71 years of age.
2. Hedy Lamarr
Better known for her successful acting career during Hollywood’s Golden Era, Hedy Lamarr had a hidden skill most people don’t know about. She was an extremely gifted engineer! Additionally, she was a pioneer in the field of wireless communication. Ready for more surprising news?! Hedy Lamarr is even responsible for co-inventing a device that helped facilitate the development of GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology. Therefore, we have this wonderful woman to thank for the advancements we use in our smart-devices every-single-day! Women engineers for the win!
From a young age, Hedy spent their spare time on various projects and inventions. For instance, developing improved traffic-signal design and a tablet that dissolved in water to make a carbonated soft drink! Her fans likely knew about her successful Hollywood films such as Algiers; released in 1938. What they probably didn’t know was her passion for engineering was so large that she set up a workshop in her home, complete with a drafting table and shelves full of reference books. Ready to find out why Hedy Lamarr is ABSOLUTELY one of the incredible women engineers you should know?!
Not only has Hedy Lamarr played glamorous roles in Hollywood, but this inspirational woman even had a hand in helping fight a World War! During WW2, German forces were jamming radio signals, and intercepting radio-controlled torpedoes. These were important aspects of US naval strategy. Hedy found a resolution! She realized it would be impossible to trace the radio signals if they could be sent over different, and constantly changing, frequencies. Therefore, she embarked on a way to make this possible.
Hedy to the rescue!
Hedy, along with George Antheil, found the solution! They developed what is known as “frequency hopping“. Let me explain! Frequency hopping is a process that allows radio receivers and transmitters to change frequencies randomly. They designed a mechanism capable of synchronizing changes between 88 separate frequencies! In this case, their invention was capable of manipulating frequencies at irregular intervals. As a result, it formed an unbreakable code that prevented a signal from being intercepted or interfered with by the enemy. Unfortunately, even after receiving a patent it was never able to be used for its intended purpose. But, years later it was implemented on US naval ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis and also is found in various military applications. In addition, included along with many other awards; Hedy became the first woman to ever receive the prestigious BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award; the highest accolade given to inventors!
Even after her passing in 2000, she was still making history. Hedy was inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 2014. AND, recently her invention has been the subject of books, articles and documentaries!
3. Eleanor K. Baum
As if it isn’t impressive enough to graduate from an engineering college, how about becoming the dean?! Introducing, Dr. Eleanor K. Baum! Dr. Baum’s engineering future began at City College of New York; where she was the only female in the 1959 engineering class. “I felt very conspicuous,” she admitted, “but I was stubborn enough to stick it out.” Later, she earned both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in electrical engineering! Both from the Polytechnic Institute of New York.
It was during this time in her life she found an additional passion for teaching. She began her career as an assistant professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Dr Baum’s subsequent appointment to the chairperson of the electrical engineering department, is considered a historic achievement!
First Woman DEAN of an Engineering College!
To continue making history, Dr. Eleanor K. Baum became the first female engineer to be named dean of an engineering college in the United States in 1984! In doing this, she had broken many professional gender barriers on her journey. Round of applause please!
Dr. Baum Dean became Dean of the Albert Nerken School of Engineering at Cooper Union in Manhattan. In addition, she was also the Executive Director of the Cooper Union Research Foundation. This is where she would spend over twenty years dedicated to promoting engineering as a profession; particularly women engineers! Therefore, another round of applause please! Dr. Baum aimed to abolish such thinking by actively encouraging young women and minorities to pursue careers within the profession.
For example, when Dr. Baum became dean at Cooper Union, 5% of the student body was female. Later, under her leadership, that number increased to 40%! Dr. Baum is committed to recognizing the importance of positive engineering and female role models for students.
Breaking More Barriers
In addition to becoming the first female Dean of an Engineering College; in 1995, Dr. Baum was elected president of the American Society for Engineering Education. Thus, conquering another first for a woman! Furthermore, Dr. Baum is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers. As well as, served as national president of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology!
Not only has Dr. Baum been inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 1994; but she is also the author of many professional articles; a director on several business, professional, and college advisory boards. In addition, she holds more than 20 awards and citations, and five honorary doctorates from major colleges and universities. Certainly a truly impressive resume and career if you ask me!
Women For the Win!
Whether it’s being the first woman to graduate from a specialty college, or rising up to becoming DEAN of that college, women have been breaking barriers and smashing stereotypes for centuries! It’s been my honor to give recognition to even just three of them today. From mothers who play numerous roles; like mom, wife, friend, coworker, CEO, or working doubles- to women who double as a Hollywood movie star, to secret genius engineer trying to save the world! There will never be a limit on what women can do and accomplish. And like these three incredibly brilliant and admirable women; we will fly seamlessly through glass ceilings and continue making our mark with the boundaries we will break, and the history we will make!
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