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This is the first female electrical engineer in the U.S.

The first person to publish a mathematical examination of power lines

Edith Clarke had a lot of "firsts" for women in engineering. She was the first woman to receive a degree in Electrical Engineering from MIT, the first woman to present a paper to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the first woman to have full voting rights within that organization, the first person to publish a mathematical examination of power lines longer than 300 miles, and the first woman to be professionally employed as an electrical engineer in the United States during a time when women played more of a support role in the industry (if any role at all.)

Last month, Clarke joined an elite group of 500 engineers and scientists who have been elected into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her accomplishments.

Clarke had a pretty incredible life story. She was born in 1883, orphaned at age 12, and paid her own way through Vasser College studying Math and Astronomy. Interestingly, researchers now believe she actually had a learning disability that caused her to struggle with reading and spelling, but she excelled in math. She went on to earn her graduates degree from MIT and started working at General Electric. Her first patent was for a graphical calculator to solve power transmission problems.

Unfortunately, Clarke was still serving as a human calculator, so she tried her hand at teaching at the Istanbul Women's College. A few years later she returned to GE, where she would spend the next 25 years as a full-time engineer.

Though her work mostly focused on power transmission, she made major discoveries about obtaining data from power networks, which was a step in the direction of a smart grid.

After retiring, she returned to teaching at the University of Texas in Austin (where she was the first female professor of electrical engineering) and died in November of 1959.

Clarke was just an overall impressive woman and one heck of an engineer.


  • Ellicott City, MD, USA
  • Edith Clarke, American Institute of Electrical Engineers