Inventors are inspirational. Edith Clarke was an inventor, electrical engineer, author, and educator. She was the first female electrical engineer and the first female professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. She invented the Clarke calculator and wrote Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems.
Edith Clarke was born on February 10, 1883 in Howard County, Maryland. She had eight siblings, but was orphaned by the age of twelve. An older sister raised her after she was orphaned. With funding from her inheritance she went on to study mathematics and astronomy at Vassar College. She graduated from Vassar College in 1908. She then taught mathematics and physics at a private school in San Francisco and Marshall College. She studied civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but left to work at AT&T in 1912. While there, she studied electrical engineering at Columbia University at night. In 1918, Edith enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1919, Edith became the first woman to earn a M.S. in electrical engineering from MIT.
She couldn’t find work as an engineer, so she took a job at General Electric as a supervisor of computers. She invented the Clarke calculator, a simple graphical device to solve equations involving hyperbolic functions. It solved equations involving electrical current, voltage and impedance in power transmission lines. She received the patent for her Calculator in 1925. Before this, she had left GE to teach physics at the Constantinople Women’s College in Turkey. When she returned to GE in 1922, she was re-hired as an electrical engineer. She retired from the Central Station Engineering Department in 1945.
During her career, she achieved fame and honors. In 1926, she was the first woman to deliver a paper at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers’ annual meeting. In 1932 and in 1941, other papers of hers won prizes from the AIEE. In 1943, she wrote her influential textbook: Circuit Analysis of A-C Power Systems. After retirement in 1947, She joined the faculty of the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin. This was another first for a woman and she taught there for ten years. She retired from there in 1957. She was the first female engineer to achieve professional standing in Tau Beta Pi. In 1948, she was the first female Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. In 1954, Edith Clarke received the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award.
Edith Clarke died on October 29, 1959. She was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. Be inspired! Have a bright day!