Engineer of the Week No.46: Hilda Margaret Lyon MA., MSc., AFRAeS. (31st May 1896- 2nd December 1946)
Hilda Margaret Lyon was born in Market Weighton in 1896, into a family of farmers and grocers. She had 4 older siblings but, out of the whole family, she seems to have been the only one to have travelled and lived out of the area. Educated at Beverley High School, Hilda went on to graduate with a mathematics degree from Newnham College, Cambridge in 1918. Her first job was as a technical assistant at Siddeley Deasy Motor company in Coventry, but in 1920 she moved into her first aeronautical post, At George Parnall & Co, an aircraft manufacturer. In 1922 she became an associate fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and in 1925 joined the Royal Airship Works in Cardington. This started a fruitful period of research for Hilda and the Aeronautical Journal published her very important paper on the strength of transverse frames of rigid airships in 1930, for which she was the first woman to be awarded the R38 Memorial Prize by the Royal Aeronautical Society. The same year she went to do 2 years of postgraduate study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Mary Ewart Travelling Scholarship. This gave her her first access to wind tunnels and she submitted her thesis on "The Effect of Turbulence on the Drag of Airship Models" to obtain her MA from MIT in 1932. That work took her next to Göttingen in Germany, where she conducted aerodynamics research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft für Strömungsforschung with Ludwig Prandtl. However, this was cut short when her mother was taken ill and Hilda was forced to return home to care for her in Yorkshire.
Engineer of the Week No.45: Anne (Annie) Gillespie Shaw (Pirie)CBE, MACEng FIProdE HonF UMIST (28th May 1904 – 1982)
Today we remember production and efficiency engineer Anne Shaw on her 115th birthday.
Anne Gillespie Shaw was born in Uddingston, Scotland. Her father, Major David Perston Shaw, having been in the wine merchant business, served in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and died June 1915, her mother was Helen Brown Shaw, MP for the Unionist Party (Conservatives) for Bothwell, Scotland 1931-35. She was educated at Laurel bank School, Glasgow and St Leonards School, St Andrews. After graduating from Edinburgh Anne Shaw gained a postgraduate certificate in social economy at Bryn Mawr University, where Dr Lillian Gilbreth, the time and motion expert, was a lecturer. Shaw worked for Gilbreth Management Consultants, doing commercial research studies and the two were lifelong friends and colleagues.
In 1930 Shaw returned to the UK, where she became a personnel officer for Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company in Manchester, and was later (1933) chief supervisor of women workers.She proved to management that a recently-reviewed process could be 150 per cent more efficiently done. From 1930 to 1945 she was the firm’s first and chief motion-study investigator, and as consultant to the entire Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) group, of which Metropolitan-Vickers was a part, she organized motion study courses. In 1935 Shaw joined the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and helped the Electrical Association for Women (EAW) produce an experimental film demonstrating the application of motion study to food preparation in the home. Also in 1935 she gained a private pilot’s licence.During the Second World War the government requested that her motion study courses for AEIbe given to the rest of the munitions industry. In 1942 Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production, recruited Shaw onto his Production Efficiency Board, to advise on work methods in the aircraft industry.In 1945 she organized a national exhibition to demonstrate that her motion study methods applied to all industries. Benches of women demonstrated optimal motions for common industrial processes.
Engineer of the Week No.44: Mrs. Mabel Lucy Matthews (nee Hanlon) AIEE (1879- c.1970)
Today we remember electrical and production engineer, Mabel Matthews, on her 140th birthday.
Mabel Hanlon was born into very humble beginnings, the second daughter of a retired soldier, raised largely in rural Yorkshire and Cheshire. Her father’s Chelsea Pensioner status apparently later secured him jobs as gatekeeper in government departments in Whitehall. In 1901 she married Richard Matthews who was listed in the church records as a ‘gent’. They were living in Barrow-in Furness in 1901 and he was listed as a company secretary, but in 1909 he died and she never remarried, mainly living with her parents and sister. By the 1911 census she was doing clerical work for a paper makers’ engineers, presumably somewhere in London as she was living with her parents in the gatekeeper’s flat at Burlington House, Piccadilly where her father then worked.
Engineer of the Week No.43: Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth (24thMay 1878 – 2nd January 1972)
Today, on her 141st birthday, we remember Lillian Gilbreth, “America’s first lady of engineering”, industrial efficiency expert.
Lillian Gilbreth had no engineering education but, like her British protege Anne Shaw, Lilian’s background in psychology led her into industrial and engineering worlds where she became renowned as an expert in improving efficiency.
Lillian Moller was born in Oakland, California to parents of German origins, her father being a builders’ supply merchant. After a period of home education, she excelled at theOakland High School and went on to gain a BA and then an MA in English Literature from the University of California. In 1904 she married Frank Bunker Gilbreth and resumed an interest from her college days, in psychology, eventuallycompleting her doctoral thesis onThe Function of the Mind in Determining, Teaching and Installing Methods of Least Waste. She and her husband shared interests scientific management principles and pioneered many industrial management techniques. Her husband concentrated on the technical aspects of worker efficiency, but Lillian was interested in the human behaviour in the workplace. She meticulously investigated the best heights for both domestic and industrial worksurfaces for men and for women.
Gilbreth and her husband were equal partners in their engineering and management consulting firm of Gilbreth, Incorporated. After her husband died in 1924 she was left with 11 children to raise, and continued to lead the company for decades after his death in 1924, although she struggled to retain former clients who did not trust her without her husband.
Engineer of the Week No. 41: Alice Christine Stickland BSc, PhD (16 March 1906- 16 April 1987)
Today, on the 22nd anniversary of her death we remember Christine Stickland, radio, radar and astrophysics engineer.
Christine Stickland was an applied mathematician with interests in radio, the development of radar and electromagnetic radiations. Born in Camberwell, her father was a publisher’s clerk so it is not clear where she found her inspiration to take up maths, physics and technical subjects. She may well have not considered herself to have been an engineer, but the range of work she undertook included a lot of practical applied physics, which is so close to engineering as to make no difference.
Like many women of her era, her 1927 mathematics degree, from King’s College London led her into the scientific civil service where she was initially one of those who checked calculations, later progressing to being a research assistant. In the pre-war period she was at an Assistant Grade II in Dept of Scientific and Industrial Research, at the Radio Research Station (RRS) at Ditton Park, and worked with some of the best known names of that time: she assisted radar pioneer, R. A. Watson-Watt, on long-wave propagation, R. L. Smith-Rose on short-wave propagation, and E. A. (later Sir Edward) Appleton on the properties of the ionosphere. Whilst still working at the RRS she studied privately for an MSc in 1929 and then a PhD on ‘The Propagation of the Magnetic Field of the Electron Magnetic Wave along the Ground and in the Lower Atmosphere’ in 1943. In 1940 she and her co-author, JS Petrie, won the IEE Wireless Section Premium for their paper on ‘Reflection curves and propagation characteristics of radio waves along the earth’s surface’. She was a prolific writer of papers and books.
Dr Stickland was elected a Fellow of the Physical Society in1942, and from 1947 to 1960, she served as the Secretary and Editor of the Physical Society, then becomingthe Editor and Deputy Secretary of the (combined) Institute of Physics and Physical Society.
After her ‘retirement’ in 1968 she continued to do editorial work, including as the Managing (General) Editor of the Annals of the International Years of the Quiet Sun (1964-65), working with very distinguished scientists, then going on to work with the International Council for Science’s Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).
In her private life she was a great supporter of the Girl Guides’ Association, and is believed to have been a Commissioner. She was remembered by colleagues for her gentle personality, but firmness of mind and conscientious efficiency.
Engineer of the Week No.40. Elizabeth M. Kennedy (circa 1875/77- 1958)
Today we remember Elizabeth Kennedy, machine tools expert and WES President.
Elizabeth Kennedy never described herself as an engineer but nevertheless spent her entire working life in engineering. Nothing is known of her background or upbringing. The teenager who had wanted to be a journalist, became a recognised expert in the types and qualities of machine tools for both wood and metalworking, having joined J.B. Stone & Co in 1904. Starting in a secretarial role, she rose to become the company’s managing director and remained with them for 30 years. She was adamant that, as it took years to make a competent engineer, she could not claim to be able to operate any of the machine tools about which she knew so much. She became a recognised expert in American machine tools and visited that country frequently during the period up to her retirement to learn more. In 1933 her paper“An analysis of the cost of electrical supply and distribution in Great Britain”, to the Institution of Electrical Engineers won its Premium for that year. During World War 2 this knowledge was put to use in the national war effort. She joined the Society in 1925 and was immediately active, going straight onto the council and becoming its President in 1933, when she used her presidential address to claim that she “was not a feminist” despite believing that women’s abilities and skills should be sufficient for their worth to be recognised and that women engineers were not taking men’s work. She retired from Stones in 1934, and died in 1958.
Engineer of the Week No. 39: Kathleen Hylda Valerie Booth (nee Britten),BSc PhD (9th July 1922-)
Today we remember Kathleen Booth, mathematician engineer, pioneer computer designer, and author.
Kathleen Booth was a computing pioneer, who helped with the crystallography analysis that contributed to the DNA structure, was a co-designer of one of the first 3 operational computers in the world, and author of 2 of the earliest books on computer design and programming.
Raised in the English Midlands, where her father was an inspector of taxes, she went to Royal Holloway College in the midst of the 2nd World War, and gained a BSc in maths. As with so many women maths graduates, her first job was as a junior scientific officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. Her work there in the Structures Department resulted in a report on the structural performance of a wood-metal composite, Dural-celluboard, which presumably was being considered for airframe construction purposes.
Engineer of the Week No. 38: Delia Ann Derbyshire (5 May 1937-3 July 2001)
Today we remember Delia Derbyshire, electronic music pioneer, on her 82nd birthday.
Delia Derbyshire is best known for her work with the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and creating the famous Dr Who theme music. Although not, strictly speaking an engineer, Delia spent most of her working life in a highly technical line of work, making innovative use of the emerging electronics of the period. Born into a working class family in Coventry, Delia was exceptionally bright, especially at maths, and won a scholarship to study maths at Girton College Cambridge – an outstanding achievement for a girl from such a humble background. She graduated with a degree in maths and music in 1959, having also had some courses in electronics. The commercial recording studios of the period refused her applications because she was a girl but in 1960, she joined the BBC as a trainee assistant studio manager and two years later had persuaded the BBC to send her to the Radiophonics Workshop, where she was immersed in the electronic equipment from which her musical talents coaxed the music for which she is famous. She worked on an enormous number of other compositions but the BBC in those days did not credit such work and it would be 50 years before an onscreen credit of her Dr Who music was permitted. She collaborated with Brian Hodgson and others in establishing freelance electronic studios but in 1975 left the field and composed little music in the rest of her life, as she moved between a variety of jobs. Sadly her life ended somewhat chaotically due to alcoholism but is widely remembered and was honoured with a posthumous honorary doctorate from Coventry University and also a blue plaque in the same town of her birth.