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British engineer and inventor Hertha Marks Ayrton honoured with Google doodle


Google doodle
Google doodle

The search engine features an illustration of Ayrton to mark her 162nd birthday

Phoebe Sarah Hertha Ayrton, a British engineer, mathematician, physicist, and inventor, has had her work honoured with a doodle on the Google homepage on what would have been 162nd birthday.

Born on the 28th April 1854, Ayrton was awarded the Hughes Medal by the Royal Society in 1906 for her work on electric arc and ripples in sand and water, becoming the first women to ever win an award from the institution.

In the late nineteenth century, electric arc was in wide use for public lighting, but a major problem with the lights was their tendency to flicker and hiss. In 1895, Ayrton wrote a series of articles for the Electrician, explaining that these phenomena were the result of oxygen coming into contact with the carbon rods used to create the arc.

In 1899, she was the first woman to ever read her own paper before the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) entitled "The Hissing of the Electric Arc". Ayrton was promptly elected the first female member of the IEE; the next woman to be admitted to the IEE was not until 1958. She petitioned to present a paper before the Royal Society but was denied owing to her sex and "The Mechanism of the Electric Arc" was read by John Perry in her stead in 1901.

Ayrton was also a prolific inventor. In 1884 she patented a line-divider, an engineering drawing instrument for dividing a line into any number of equal parts and for enlarging and reducing figures. The line-divider was her first major invention and, while its primary use was likely to be for artists, it was also a useful tool for architects and engineers. Ayrton's 1884 patent was the first of many – from 1884 until her death, Hertha registered 26 patents: five on mathematical dividers, 13 on arc lamps and electrodes, the rest on the propulsion of air.



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