Category: History

5 Extraordinary Women in Engineering

March 8th International Womens Day

On International Women’s Day, we celebrate social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women today and throughout our history.

As engineers, we understand the need to increase the involvement and participation of women within our industry, as well as the other STEM fields. Today at Hoyle, Tanner we are celebrating a few extraordinary women throughout engineering history who have made a tremendous impact in our field and shown tremendous strength in times of opposition.

Martha J. Coston (1826-1904)
At the age of 21, Martha Coston was already a widowed mother of four children struggling to make ends meet. So when she happened upon a design for night flares that her late husband left behind in a notebook, she took advantage of the opportunity and went to work. For 10 years she revised his original design and even added pyrotechnic components in order to achieve a multicolored system that could be used for coded messaging. It was a long road, and along the way, Martha was forced to overcome unimaginable challenges, including the death of one of her children. However, all of her hard work eventually paid off when she succeeded in creating a bright, durable and long lasting tool that could be used for ship-to-ship or ship-to-land communication. When she patented the invention in 1859, the Navy purchased it from her for $20,000. (the equivalent of half of a million dollars for the time period). In addition, she won the rights to manufacture the devices for the United States Navy. Historians argue that the “Coston Flares” were a major contributing factor to the North’s victory during the Civil War. To this day, pyrotechnic devices are still used as a means of communication by the U.S. Navy. Throughout her lifetime, Coston demonstrated a profound ability to overcome failure and persist through hardship, and for that reason she is an inspiration to not only all women, but all engineers.

Helena Augusta Blanchard (1840-1922)
Helena Augusta Blanchard was born into a wealthy family from Portland, Maine. When her family lost everything in a financial crisis, Blanchard went to work using her talents to single-handedly restore their fortune. At the age of 30, she patented the zigzag sewing machine, her first and most famous invention. From there she went on to hold 28 patents, most of which were related to sewing machines. However, notable inventions by Blanchard also include the surgical needle and the hand crank pencil sharpener. She went on to open the Blanchard Overseam Machine Company in 1881 with the help of her sister. Helena Augusta Blanchard is the most prolific and successful female inventor of the 19th century. She loved what she did and continued to improve upon her designs and create new ones up until having a stroke in 1916.

Emily Warren Roebling (1843 – 1903)
Unlike others on our list, Emily Roebling never intended to become an engineer. However, when her husband became ill in 1872, she assumed the role of “first woman field engineer,” overseeing the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge — one of the biggest engineering projects of that time period. For 14 years, Emily executed many of the chief engineer’s duties, which included day-to-day supervision, project management, and even acting as a liaison with the bridges board of trustees. Although throughout the construction processes, Emily’s contributions were largely hidden due to the circumstances of the time period, today you will find a plaque on the bridge honoring both her and her husband.

Edith Clarke (1883-1959)
Edith Clarke was born in a small Maryland town and found herself an orphan by age 12. When she was 18, she made the courageous decision to spend all of her inheritance money on an education in mathematics at Vassar College. After graduating in 1908, Clarke worked as both a teacher and a computing assistant for AT&T before deciding to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she became the first female to graduate from their electrical engineering program. In 1922, Edith accepted a salaried engineering position at General Electric, making her the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the United States. Edith Clarke was a loyal employee and stayed with GE for 26 years. During that time, she invented and patented her most famous contribution to the field, the graphical calculator “that simplified the equations electrical engineers used to understand power lines.” Edith Clarke was a pioneer for women in the engineering fields. Other firsts for her include being the first woman to present a paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), the first woman to become an accepted voting member of the AIEE, and the first woman to be elected a fellow of the AIEE. Edith Clarke is honored in the National Inventors Hall of Fame for her extraordinary career.

Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000)
Hedy Lamarr is most commonly remembered as a beautiful movie star from the late 1930s to the 1950s. However, many are not aware of her talents off screen as an inventor. When Lamarr found herself bored with her daily duties as an actress, she started to spend all of her spare time on various inventions, despite a lack of formal training in the field. Her commitment to her hobby paid off when Lamarr patented a remote-controlled communications system that would be used by the U.S. Navy to jam enemy systems that interfered with torpedoes during World War II. The frequency hopping theory behind the design is the foundation for our communication technologies today, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network systems. It was not until 2014 that Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. There is no doubt that Hedy Lamarr was an incredibly talented woman who did what she loved despite the limitations of the time in which she lived. Next time you go to log onto your email or connect to Wi-Fi, take a moment to remember the woman who made it possible for you do so.

Written by Grace Mulleavey

Act Like a President, Think Like an Engineer

Presidents Graphic

The majority of our nation’s past presidents came from an academic or professional background — such as law, writing or education — rather than a technical or scientific one. In honor of President’s Day and as the kick-off to this year’s annual Engineers Week, we are celebrating five unique presidents who proved to have minds for engineering.

George Washington – (Presidency: April 30, 1789 – March 4, 1797)
Most famous for being the first President of the United States and cutting down cherry trees, many people are not aware that amongst George Washington’s many talents was a knack for both geography and cartography. In fact, Washington spent his early professional career as a surveyor before some of his more distinguished endeavors as a business man, war hero and president. History shows that when serving as a military officer during the revolutionary war, Washington preferred to create his own field sketches as opposed to having them drawn up for him.

Thomas Jefferson – (Presidency: March 4, 1801 – March 4, 1809)
Perhaps one of the most famous and influential figures in United States history, our third president, Thomas Jefferson, certainly thought like an engineer. Although classicism was his official expertise, Jefferson is often celebrated as America’s first great native-born architect. Even more impressively, Jefferson was self-made, gaining all of his architectural knowledge from books because of the lack of schools in colonial Virginia. Evidence of our founding father’s talent can be seen at the University of Virginia, or the state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia (both of which he designed). Jefferson’s work is uniquely American and still influences modern day architecture.

Abraham Lincoln – (Presidency: March 4, 1861 – April 15, 1865)
Most famous for abolishing slavery, our 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is known as both a successful lawyer and politician. However, most people are not aware that Lincoln spent a great deal of time studying mathematics, which qualified him for his early career as a land surveyor. In fact, in fall 1833 Lincoln spent countless days and nights pouring over texts such as Gibson’s Theory and Practice of Surveying and Flint’s Treatise on Geometry, Trigonometry, and Rectangular Surveying, both of which prepared him for making measurements in the field.

Herbert Hoover – (Presidency: March 4, 1929 – March 4, 1933)
President Hoover is the only president who had an official background in engineering. In 1985, he graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor degree in mining engineering. Before winning the presidential election by a landslide in 1928, Herbert Hoover had a colorful career. The 31st president of the United States built his foundation working around the world on mining and railway projects, participating as a member of several war boards and councils and also serving as the Chairman of the American relief administration engaged in children’s relief in Europe. President Hoover greatly enjoyed his work as an engineer and spoke of the profession in high regard.

“It is a great profession. There is the fascination of watching a figment of the imagination emerge through the aid of science to a plan on paper. Then it moves to realization in stone or metal or energy. Then it brings jobs and homes to men. Then it elevates the standards of living and adds to the comforts of life. That is the engineer’s high privilege.”

Jimmy Carter – (Presidency: January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981)
Next to President Hoover, Jimmy Carter is the second closest of all 45 presidents to have an official background in engineering. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology for one year before enrolling in the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis where he received a Bachelor of Science degree and became a submariner. While serving as a submariner in Schenectady, New York, he took graduate classes at Union College in reactor technology and nuclear physics. Carter served in the United States Navy for seven years on nuclear submarines. In fact, Carter was preparing to become the engineering officer in 1953 for the Seawolf before he abruptly resigned in the event of his father’s passing. Carter’s love for engineering is evident in the years following his presidency through his extensive work for Habitat for Humanity.

Written by Grace Mulleavey

45th Anniversary Announcement – A message from our President

Original Office in Terminal Building

Forty five years ago, Doug Hoyle and John Tanner opened the doors to Hoyle, Tanner & Associates, Inc. — an engineering firm, which at that time, specialized in aviation and wastewater services. Since then, we’ve experienced tremendous growth as a company, expanding our services across multiple engineering sectors, and opening branch offices throughout New England and Florida. Our success is attributed to our resilience in the face of challenges, our willingness to adapt in times of change, and our ability to be insightful in our decisions overtime.

Over the years, we have established a strong reputation as a firm that continuously provides innovative, high-quality and sustainable solutions to our clients. As president, it is a great honor to serve in a role that helps this company and the communities we serve to accomplish everything we have set out to achieve. Our employees are not just a means to production, but part of a unique family, united under a culture of respect, social responsibility and collaboration. It is truly a joy to come to work every day and both mentor and learn from some of the best professionals in the industry.

Looking ahead, our future as a company is promising. We have been and will continue to be a small firm with large firm capabilities. We will grow not for the sake of growing, but to provide extended opportunities to both our clients and our employees. We will do so organically by promoting from within and forming strategic mergers and acquisitions. I am confident in the capabilities of our team and am enthusiastic about our future, which shines bright with the promise of continued innovation, creativity and insight. This year, on our anniversary, Hoyle, Tanner proudly acknowledges the past 45 years, but more importantly celebrates the outstanding, innovative and quality engineering that will see our company through the next 45 years and beyond.