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86 Eminent Physicists
Hertha (Sarah) Marks Ayrton
Some Important Contributions:
Her work on the electric arc was precursor to the field of plasma physics. She discovered the connection between pressure in the arc and current length, and the composition and shape of the electrodes. -- Professor Walter Gekelman.
Analyzed the fluid dynamics of waves on the sea shore; the causes and process of formation of ripples in the sand.
Some Important Publications
"The Light Emitted by the Continuous Current Arc," Electrician 45: 921 (1900).
The Electric Arc. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1902.
"The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A84: 285 (1910).
"On a New Method of Driving off Poisonous Gases," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A96: 249 (1919-20).
First woman to be elected member of The Institution of Electrical Engineers (London) 1899
Hughes Medal, Royal Society (London) 1906
Hertha Ayrton Research Fellowship established in Girton College, Cambridge.
1876-81 Girton College, Cambridge University
Completed the Cambridge Tripos in 1881.
1884-85 Finsbury Technical College
Ayrton's father died when she was seven leaving his family in debt. As a young woman she supported herself and helped support her family by tutoring and embroidery.
While she was in her teens Sarah Marks adopted the name Hertha, after the Teutonic earth goddess eulogized by Swinburne.
Married William Edward Ayrton, professor of physics and noted electrical engineer, in 1885. He is known to have been very supportive of women' education and legal rights. They had a daughter Barbara.
First woman to read a paper ("The Hissing of the Electric Arc," 1899) to the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The Institute elected her their first female member. She was awarded £10 prize for that paper.
First woman to read a paper ("The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," 1904) to the Royal Society (London). Three years earlier, Ayrton's paper, "The Mechanism of the Electric Arc," had to be read to the Society by a man (John Perry). [8 MBO]
Ayrton began to study sand ripples in 1901 after her husband had become ill and required long stays at the seashore. [15B PGA]
For further reading about Ayrton's scientific work see reminiscences of A. P. Trotter.
Ayrton actively participated in demonstrations for women's suffrage.
Founding member, in 1920, of the National Union of Scientific Workers. [1 N20]
for Marie Curie
from the turmoil and tragedy of her husband'
untimely death, and wrote in her defense that
"An error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman ha
more lives than a cat."
Field Editors: Professor Walter Gekelman/ Nina Byers<
To cite this citation:
" Ayrton, Hertha(Sarah) Marks." CWP < home >