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Women on Walls - Our Subjects

Our Subjects


Beatrice Alice Hicks (1919-1979)

In 1942, Hicks became the first female engineer employed by Western Electric where she developed a crystal oscillator. She enrolled in electrical engineering graduate courses, receiving a Master´s Degree in physics in 1949. When her father died, she assumed several consecutive leadership roles in the family business. Hicks developed environmental sensors and became president of the company in 1955. Later, the US space program utilities much of this technology. Hicks married Rodney Duane Chipp, a fellow engineer, in 1948 and co-founded the Society of Women Engineers in 1950 (Society´s first President).

Doctorates: Hobart & William Smith College 1958, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 1965 (first woman to receive the honour), Stevens Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (1978). Awards: Mademoiselle Magazine Outstanding Woman of the Year in Business (1952), SWE Achievement Award (1963).

Katherine Johnston (1918-2020)

Katherine was a leading Mathematician, specialising in orbital mechanics. She finished high school at age 14 at West Virginia State and continued taking college courses. She graduated in 1939 summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics and French. In 1957, she provided the math for the 1958 document Notes on Space Technology. She did trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s May 1961 mission Freedom 7, America’s first human spaceflight. In 1960, she and engineer Ted Skopinski co-authored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position.

As one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist, in 1962, she assisted the orbital mission of John Glenn. She worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite and retired in 1986 after 33 years.

In 2015, Johnson added an extraordinary achievement to her list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour.

Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (1903-1971)

In 1922 Lonsdale placed first in the honours B.Sc. examination, obtaining the highest marks awarded in ten years, and came to the attention of the Nobel prize winner W. H. Bragg who offered her a position on his research team at University College, London, and later in the Royal Institution. Aged 21, she published ‘Tabulated data for the examination of the 230 space-groups’, a major contribution to crystallography. She was awarded an M.Sc. (1924) and a Ph.D. (1927).

Lonsdale took a post at the Royal Institution as research assistant to Sir William Bragg and later to Sir Henry Dale. She pioneered techniques such as divergent beam X-ray photography.

She was awarded the Degree of D.Sc. in 1936. In 1946 she was appointed reader in crystallography at UCL and became the first woman Professor (1949). In later life helped found the Atomic Scientists Association. Of her many articles on the religious case against war and militarism, the most notable publication was Is peace possible? (1957).

Marie Maynard Daly (1921-2003)

Marie was a biochemist, the first African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. She spent her career in cancer research, securing a grant from the American Cancer Society for a seven-year research programme in the Rockefeller Institute of Medicine, examining how proteins are constructed in the body. In 1955, Daly worked closely with Dr. Quentin B. Deming on the causes of heart attacks. Their groundbreaking work disclosed the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries, creating a new understanding of how foods and diet can affect the heart health and the circulatory system. She spent her career advocating for increasing the number of minority students enrolled in medical schools, establishing a scholarship for American chemistry and physics majors at Queens College in 1988. Daly retired from Albert Einstein College in 1986. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and was tapped as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Kathleen (Kay) McNulty (1921-2006)

Kay was born in County Donegal during the Irish War of Independence. Her father, a Republican, was arrested the night she was born. After his release, the family emigrated to Pennsylvania. She won a scholarship to Chestnut Hill College and studied spherical trigonometry, differential calculus, projective geometry, partial differential equations, and statistics in addition to many others. She graduated in 1942, one of only 3 female mathematics graduates.

Her first job was as a human ‘computer’ for the US government. By 1945 she was a member of a team programming the Electronic Numerator Integrator and Computer, therefore was one of the world’s first computer programmers. She worked in software design for the BINAC and UNIVAC1 computers. She was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in 1997. In 1999 Letterkenny IT established a computer science award in her honour. DCU named its computing building after her (2017) and NUIG named its supercomputer ‘Kay’ (2019).

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