Engineer of the Week No.88: Dr Winifred Hackett AMIEE (2nd October 1906 - 3rd June 1994)
On her 113th birthday we remember Winifred Hackett, electrical engineer.
Educated at King Edward’s Girls’ High School, Birmingham, Hackett was an exceptional student and won a scholarship there. She initially went to UCL to study architecture but then returned to Birmingham to study electrical engineering, graduating with a BSc Hons class 1 in 1929 – the first woman to gain such a degree. This also gained her the Bowen Scholarship for Electrical Engineering enabling her to stay on for a year’s research for an MSc. In 1930 she was awarded a grant by the Institution of Electrical Engineers' War Thanksgiving Education and Research Fund which helped her proceed to gain a PhD on selenium cells from University of Birmingham.
Her first job was as a Junior Technical Assistant to the British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association at Perivale and then Leatherhead.
Having been involved with the Women’s Engineering Society since 1929, in 1946 she became President. This was when she was researching dielectrics for “a firm of capacitor manufacturers”. She published a number of papers on dielectrics, capacitors and DC design.
In the 1950s she was head of the Guided Weapons Division at English Electric, in Luton and later in Stevenage, where she was in charge of the Deuce computer and its programming on punched cards and paper tape. The Deuce was a version of Alan Turing’s Ace computer but was a commercial product, of which 33 were sold and which had a library of over 1,000 programs. The period when Hackett ran the guided weapons division also saw the development of the Thunderbird surface to air missile and other ballistic missiles. In the early 1960s she moved to join the Manchester Business School where she did statistical analysis.
Personal interests included fashion and the theatre, and in retirement her own ill health led her to devise various aids for disabled people. She died in 1994.