Distinguished Women of Past and Present

First Page Name Index Subject Index Related Sites Search

Edith Clarke


Edith Clarke, the first woman to be elected fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, was born February 10, 1883 in Howard County, Maryland, U.S.A. She received an A.B. degree in mathematics and astronomy from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1908. In 1911, she took courses in Civil Engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. From 1912 to 1918, she worked for the American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T). Her work consisted mainly of solving mathematical equations.

In 1919, she was the first woman to receive an M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Following this, she started working for General Electric in 1919 , where she remained for the next twenty-odd years. In 1920, she took leave of absence from her job and was a visiting professor of physics at Islanbul Women's College in Turkey.

In 1926, she addressed the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) at their convention in New York City in February 1926. It is believed that she was the first woman to do so. She spoke on the topic of "Steady-State Stability in Transmission systems".

In 1943, she published an electrical engineering textbook Circuit Analysis of AC Power Systems, Symmetrical and Related Components. In 1948, she was elected fellow of the AIEE. At that time she was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas in Austin, where she remained until 1959. She was probably the first woman to teach electrical engineering at the university level. In 1954 she received the Achievement Award of the Society of Women Engineers. Edith Clarke died October 29, 1959 in Olney, Maryland.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1996.

1. The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women by Phyllis J. Read and Bernard L. Witlieb, Random House, 1992
2. Women's World: A Timeline of Women in History by Irene M. Franck and David M. Brownstone, HarperCollins Publishers, 1995

First Page Name Index Subject Index Related Sites Search