Institute Professor Sheila Widnall has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, joining fellow MIT alumnae Shirley Ann Jackson, Katherine Dexter McCormick and Ellen Swallow Richards among the 195 women honored since the Hall was founded in 1969.
The induction ceremonies were held on Oct. 4 at the Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y., site of the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848.
Widnall, the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Air Force, has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1964. She recently served on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. Under her leadership, the Air Force transformed its capabilities to operate in and utilize space and renewed its commitment to its core values.
A world-renowned engineer, she holds three patents and is widely known for her work on turbulence and vortex flows. Widnall received the S.B. and S.M. in aeronautical engineering from MIT in 1961 and the Sc.D. in 1964. She is currently vice president of the National Academy of Engineering.
Jackson and McCormick were inducted in 1998 and Richards in 1993.
Jackson, the first woman to chair the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been president of the Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute since 1999. She received the S.B. in 1968, and in 1973 became the first woman to receive the Ph.D. in theoretical solid state physics from MIT. She is a life member of the MIT Corporation.
McCormick (S.B. 1904) was national treasurer of the Woman Suffrage Movement and a founding officer of the League of Women Voters. A biology major, she worked with Margaret Sanger and helped establish birth control clinics. She also initiated and supported early research on birth control pills. She gave the Institute its first on-campus residence for women, Stanley McCormick Hall, named in memory of her husband.
Richards (S.B. 1873), the first woman to study at MIT, opened the Science Laboratory for Women in a renovated Institute garage. She was central to the founding of the American Home Economics Association and served as the group's first president. Her studies of air, water and food led to the creation of national public health standards and the new disciplines of sanitary engineering and nutrition.
Criteria for induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame include the value of the person's contribution to society or to the progress and freedom of women, significant contributions in her own field, and the enduring value of her contribution.