Celebrating Women’s History Month

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we’d like to share some of the amazing women that have contributed to the AEC industry.

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Lillian Gilbreth

Known as the “First Lady of Engineering,” Lillian Gilbreth was massively successful with her education, career, and as a loving mother of 12!

Applying a scientific method to her work that is still used today for workplace efficiency and management, Gilbreth also took part in consulting for the government during the Great Depression and WWII.

Gilbreth invented both the shelving in refrigerator doors and the foot pedal trash can. Her application of science to the construction industry let to a rise in productivity that is still observed today!

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Dorothy Vaughan

Dorothy Vaughan was a math teacher in Farmville, Virginia and joined the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory part-time in 1943. An abundance of data led to Vaughan obtaining a full-time job at the laboratory.

Separated from other white supervisors, Vaughan went on to become the first black supervisor at NACA and ensured that all employees were getting the recognition they deserved in the form of raises and promotions. After NACA became NASA, internal segregation was banned, and she worked among her other supervisors.

Dorothy Vaughan was also an expert programmer and assisted in SCOUT, a satellite-launching rocket. She retired in 1971 from her job at NASA.

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Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson graduated from her high school with top marks and continued on to get her bachelor’s degree in Science from the Hampton Institute. She started off teaching, before taking a job at NASA.

She worked as a computer, extracting data from the daily experiments and flight tests. Jackson was known to help fellow coworkers advance in their careers by recommending relevant classes and was eventually promoted to aerospace engineer.

After 30 years of working for NASA as a computer and engineer, Jackson took on a job as an equal opportunity specialist to assist women and minorities. She spent her life helping others advance in their careers, and finally retired in 1985.

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Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson proved her promising intelligence early on, being moved up several grades beyond her peers, and graduated at the early age of just 13! She graduated West Virginia University with the high honors and went on to be a teacher. When the college integrated its graduate schools, Johnson was picked along with 2 other men to hold a spot at the school. However, after enrolling, she left to have her children.

Upon her return to work, Katherine Johnson took a job in the West Area Computing section at Langley where she worked with data from flight tests. However, after the launch of the Soviet Union satellite in 1957, Johnson took on an even larger roll! Math equations that she had created were used in the Notes on Space Technology lecture series. The lecturers later went on to form the space travel section in NACA.

Katherine Johnson did trajectory analysis for Mercury missions in 1961 as well as John Glenn’s orbital mission in 1962. Although computers planned Glenn’s orbital trajectory, he specifically requested that Johnson look through the equations to ensure the mission was safe.

She retired from her honorary work at NASA in 1986, and in 2015, received the highest civilian honor in the U.S., the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Celebrating Black History Month

In recognition of African American History Month, we’d like to share some of the amazing people that have contributed to the AEC industry.

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William Dammond

As African American History Month comes to an end, we reflect on all the individuals that paved the way for the AEC industry, and conclude with William Dammond.

William Dammond was an educator and civil engineer that was known for his hatred towards railroad accidents! He was the first African-American graduate of the University of Pittsburg and graduated with honors.

In Michigan, he worked as an assistant bridge engineer and invented an electric signaling system, earning a patent for his creation. In 1906 he also issued a patent for his railroad operating safety system, and was recognized for his work in 1915 by the Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress, a notable publication of African-Americans in the state of Michigan.

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Archie Alexander

Archie Alexander was an engineer, architect and mathematician. Archie earned the nickname “Archie the Great” at the University of Iowa, where he was the first African American to graduate from their engineering program.

After working for Marsh Engineers in Minnesota as the head of their bridge building program, he ventured off to create his own engineering company, Alexander & Repass. He spent the remainder of his life working with his classmate and partner Maurice Repass, constructing and working on many well-known roads and bridges in the DC area like the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, the Whitehurst Freeway, and the Tidal Basin Bridge.

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Elijah McCoy

At just 15 years old, Elijah McCoy ventured to Scotland and came back with a degree in Mechanical Engineering! Within his lifetime, he held 57 patents and invented many well-known popular products including an automatic lubrication system for steam engines.

The term “real McCoy” was coined after other companies tried copying his products, but did not work as well. People would say they wanted the “Real McCoy.”

As the son of two runaway slaves, McCoy is a true inspiration and a respected member in the industry!

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Howard P. Grant

Well known in California Howard P. Grant was a man of many ‘firsts.’ He was the first black graduate of University of California Berkeley College of Engineering, the first black engineer of San Francisco, as well as the first black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Mr. Grant was a forerunner in Civil Engineering, and later founded the Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers, an organization that helped the black youth discover the engineering field.

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George Biddle Kelley

George Biddle Kelley attended Cornell University from 1905-1908, earning a degree in Civil Engineering. He was a founding member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, as well as the fraternity’s first president. The Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest black Greek fraternal organization!

His achievements go even further beyond his fraternity work, becoming the first ever African American engineer to be registered in New York!