Clarke was born in Ellicott city, Maryland on February 10th 1883. Although she struggled with spelling and reading, she excelled in mathematics and card games. Orphaned by the age of 12, Clarke’s beginnings were quite difficult. She moved in with her uncle and was sent to a boarding school in Maryland. After she turned 18, things began to look up for Clarke. She inherited some money from her parent’s estate and used it to pay for college. She studied mathematics and astronomy at Vassar College. Clarke graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors in 1908. Afterwards, she worked as a mathematics and physics teacher in San Francisco and West Virginia (McFadden).
That was not the end of Clarke’s story. She recognized a desire to become an engineer and went for it. She enrolled as a civil-engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The summer break after her first year, she got a job to work as a computer assistant to Dr. George Campbell at AT & T. Little did she know that was the beginning of a different path for her. A summer job turned into a dream career and she decided to work full-time at
AT & T. Her interest in the work she was doing with Campbell (applying mathematical methods to solve problems associated with long distance transmission of electricity) grew tremendously that, she decided to pursue an electrical engineering degree at Columbia University (McFadden).
After Clarke retired from AT & T, she became a full-time professor at the University of Texas, Austin. This made her the first female professor of Electrical Engineering in the United States. In 1948, she became the first woman elected for a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Furthermore, she received a Society of Women Engineers Achievement award due to her original work in stability theory and circuit analysis. Edith Clarke died on October 29th 1959 (AgnesScottCollege).
Edith Clarke paved a way for other women in engineering. Her story is simply the result of hard work, dedication, and passion. She is someone that shows us that in the end, it all pays off. The summer is gradually coming to an end. It’s not too early to start preparing for the new school year. In what way were you lacking in your work, dedication or zeal last year? How do you want to fix that?
AgnesScottCollege. Biographies of Women Mathematicians. 2016.
McFadden, Christopher. Edith Clarke: The First Female Electrical Engineer and Professor of Electrical Engineering. 25 March 2018.