Hertha Marks Ayrton

By: Carly Strauser


Lifetime : April 28, 1854 - August 23, 1923

Where she lived : Born in Portsea, England at the age of 9 she moved to London. She attended college in the U.K. and died in North Lancing, Sussex.

Work : She began her work as a high school math teacher. She was also one of the largest activist of the of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Her Profession : Teacher, engineer, mathematician, physicist, and inventor.

Interesting Facts : In her school years she was known to have fiery and sometimes crude personality. She later studied at Cambridge, but they would not give her a degree because of her gender. She was known for pioneering women's education and helped create the first residential college for women in England.



Electric Arcs : Electric Arcs are highly luminous and have very hot discharge of electricity between 2 electrodes. They were used a lot for public lighting at that time and they were known to flicker and hiss a lot. She began her research in 1893. Her aim was to find out more about it, which led to even more testing. The work that she had done eventually led to fixing the problem of the hissing and flickering. In 1902 she published a book about her discoveries on electric arcs.

Sand and Water Ripples : She discovered that the reason for the ripples, which was when the water washes over the over the sand. This was not known before Hertha's small observation. In 1904, she read her discoveries of the ripple effect before the Royal Society.

Inventions :

Mathematical dividers : These were used for dividing lines into equal parts. This invention was patented in 1884.

Ayrton Fan : In 1915 these were designed to blow away poisonous gases from trenches (used by soldiers). These could create spiral vortices (whirling mass of air) and prevent gas attacks. It wasn't widely used but she later made some changes and it was used by miners and sewers.

Others : By the time she died she had patents on about 26 other inventions.

Mathematical Divider

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Ayrton Fan

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What she changed about the understanding of electricity : with her work on the electric arc it led to more understanding of electricity, this also led to increasing research in the plasma physics field. Hertha Marks Ayrton opened this up for the field of electricity studiers leading to more science research because of her work. The things she discovered when researching the electric arc led to improvements of searchlight carbons and in lamphouses for cinema projectors. It showed that the length of the arc connected to things like pressure and voltage. All of this information leading the way for new discoveries.

How did society react: I think that the society took her discoveries well, but with some hesitation because she was a women. In a lot of her achievements she was the first women to do anything like that. The Ayrton fan, even though could be proven to work it wasn't really widely used in the army. She later made some changes and it was used by miners and sewers. I think a lot of the times she maybe got the short end of the stick because she was a women. With her many discoveries she was paving the way for other women so society could see that women could do this type of work as well. This all happening in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. Hertha Marks Ayrton helped with that as well as create many new inventions and important discoveries.