Edith Clarke

Edith Clarke 1883 – 1959, born in a small farming community in Maryland on 10 February 1883, went to Vassar College to study mathematics and astronomy and graduated in 1908 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Subsequently, she taught mathematics at a private girls’ school in San Francisco, and then at Marshall College in Huntington, WV. In the fall of 1911, Edith enrolled as a civil engineering student at the University of Wisconsin. At the end of her first year, she took a summer job as a “Computer Assistant” to AT&T research engineer Dr. George Campbell and was so interested in her work that she stayed on at AT&T to train and direct a group of (human) “computers.”

Clarke wrote and published a great deal. She wrote many, many useful papers pertaining to power distribution and synchronous machines and a comprehensive EE textbook for engineering schools and colleges. She also received two patents related to electrical power transmission.

In 1947 Clarke left GE after 26 years to teach electrical engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, where she became the first female EE professor in the US and worked there until retirement in 1956. She became the first woman to be elected a fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (which became the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, IEEE). In 1954, she received a lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers. The Award cited her contributions to the field in the form of her simplifying charts and her work in system instability.

Edith Clarke died five years later, on October 29, 1959 in Olney, Maryland.