Oil and Gas and STEM Pioneers Who Happened to Be Women

Kelsey Mulac
Cabot Oil & Gas
External Affairs, Pittsburgh

Science, technology, engineering and math, four disciplines commonly known as STEM capabilities are the essence of oil and gas and women have been pioneers.

For Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting pioneers of science, technology, engineering, and math fields that have always been important to Cabot. The innovators profiled below all helped lay the groundwork to directly or indirectly power the modern energy industry and have helped open the doors for countless other women to follow in their footsteps.

For a modern look at women in the oil and gas industry, see the article “Energy, Women and the Opportunity to Lead” from our friends at the American Petroleum Institute.

We also suggest getting a copy of Robbie Rice Gries’ book: Anomalies—Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917-2017. Robbie is herself a trailblazer in the petroleum industry. With four decades of experience, Robbie’s impressive resume includes serving as the founder and president of Priority Oil & Gas LLC, the 2012 recipient of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Michel T. Halbouty Outstanding Leadership Award and much more.

The Cabot team salutes these scientists as we honor Women’s History Month:

Florence Bascom – Geologist

STEMGeologists know Florence Bascom (1862–1945) as “the first woman geologist in this country.” Though Bascom was the second woman to earn a Ph.D. in geology in the United States (Mary Holmes earned a Ph.D. in geology from the University of Michigan in 1888), the moniker is appropriate.

Bascom was the first woman hired by the U.S. Geological Survey (1896), the first woman to present a paper before the Geological Society of Washington (1901), the first woman elected to the Council of the Geological Society of America (elected in 1924; no other woman was elected until after 1945), and the first woman officer of the GSA (vice president in 1930).

She was an associate editor of the American Geologist (1896–1905) and a four-starred geologist in the first edition of American Men of Science (1906), which meant that her colleagues regarded her as among the country’s hundred leading geologists. After joining the Bryn Mawr College faculty, Bascom founded the college’s geology department. This site became the locus of training for the most accomplished female geologists of the early 20th century. Read more via GSA Today.

Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus – The Queen of Carbon

“If you somehow manage your time properly…then sometimes you can find time to do crazy stuff and that might change the world.”

Widely known as the “Queen of Carbon,” Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus had an unparalleled career, making crucial advances in the understanding of the thermal and electrical properties of carbon nanomaterials during her nearly 60 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dresselhaus passed away on February 20, 2017, at age 86. Her life remains an indelible source of inspiration to pursue one’s passion despite any obstacle.

Read more via the Franklin Institute.

Dr. Gladys West – Mathematician & GPS Visionary

 

STEM“Dr. Gladys West is among a small group of women who did computing for the U.S. military in the era before electronic systems.  Hired in 1956 as a mathematician at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory, she participated in a path-breaking, award-winning astronomical study that proved, during the early 1960s, the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.

Thereafter, from the mid-1970s through the 1980s, using complex algorithms to account for variations in gravitational, tidal, and other forces that distort Earth’s shape, she programmed an IBM 7030 ‘Stretch’ computer to deliver increasingly refined calculations for an extremely accurate geodetic Earth model, a geoid, optimized for what ultimately became the Global Positioning System (GPS) orbit.” (From Air Force Space Command Public Affairs.)

Edith Clarke – Electrical Engineer

STEMFrom Agnes Scott College: “Edith Clarke’s achievements were in the applications of mathematics to engineering. She was born in Ellicott City, Maryland in 1883, one of nine children. Both her parents died by the time she was twelve and with the money she inherited when she turned 18, she decided to study mathematics and astronomy at Vassar College.

She became an authority on the manipulation of hyperbolic functions, equivalent circuits, and graphical analysis. In 1926 Clarke became the first woman to present a paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE). Her paper on “steady-state stability in transmission systems” described a mathematical technique to model a power system and its behavior that allowed engineers to analyze the longer transmission lines then becoming more common.

Between 1923 and 1945, Clarke published 18 technical papers. One paper, co-authored by Clarke and published in 1941 in the Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, received the National First Paper Prize of the Year award from the AIEE…Clarke retired from GE in 1945. Two years later she was appointed a full professor at the University of Texas, becoming the first female professor of electrical engineering in the country. She taught there until 1956…

In 1948 Edith Clarke became the first woman elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now known as the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE). In 1954 she received the Society of Women Engineers Achievement Award “in recognition of her many original contributions to stability theory and circuit analysis.” For more on Edith, visit this site.

Inge Lehmann – Seismologist

STEMFromTrowelblazers: “There’s a ball of solid metal at the center of the Earth, more than 1,500 miles (2,400 km) in diameter and made up primarily of a nickel-iron alloy. Buried beneath the solid mantle and the liquid outer core, this inner core can only be “seen” indirectly, through its influence on seismic waves that pass through the body of the Earth, reflecting and refracting at the boundaries between its major layers.

In 1936, seismologist Inge Lehmann realized that an extra interface could explain some mysterious earthquake data she was seeing at her seismic stations in Denmark and Greenland. By piecing together the scattered seismic wave arrivals and fitting them to a new model of Earth’s structure, she reimagined our planet from the inside out and revealed its deepest secret:  the inner core.” Read more about Inge here.

Ada Lovelace – 19th Century Computer Programmer

STEMFrom Biography.com: “The daughter of famed poet Lord Byron, Augusta Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace—better known as “Ada Lovelace”—was born in London on December 10, 1815. Ada showed her gift for mathematics at an early age.

She translated an article on an invention by Charles Babbage, and added her own comments. Because she introduced many computer concepts, Ada is considered the first computer programmer. Ada died on November 27, 1852.”

Read more about Ada here.

Reposted, with permission, from Well Said Cabot.

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One thought on “Oil and Gas and STEM Pioneers Who Happened to Be Women

  1. Wonderful to read about these amazing women who forged a path for today’s women. This was in a day when women were suppose to stay home, clean the house, prepare the meals and of course have lots of babies.

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