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The Brilliant Calculator

How Mathematician Edith Clarke

Helped Electrify America



Calkins Creek

(Astra Books for Young Readers)

(pub.3.14.2023) 40 pages

Author: Jan Lower

Illustrator: Susan Reagan

Character: Edith Clarke


" Long before calculators were invented, little Edith Clarke devoured numbers, conquered calculations, cracked puzzles, and breezed through brainteasers. Edith wanted to be an engineer—to use the numbers she saw all around her to help build America.

When she grew up, no one would hire a woman engineer. But that didn’t stop Edith from following her passion and putting her lightning-quick mind to the problem of electricity. But the calculations took so long! Always curious, Edith couldn’t help thinking of better ways to do things. She constructed a “calculator” from paper that was ten times faster than doing all that math by hand! Her invention won her a job, making her the first woman electrical engineer in America. And because Edith shared her knowledge with others, her calculator helped electrify America, bringing telephones and light across the nation."

Tantalizing taste:

" Too ambitious, the grown-ups scolded. Girls belong on the farm.

But when she received money her parents had left her, she defied her family - and spent money on college. To prepare, she read history and literature, hired a tutor to learn Latin, and taught herself ancient Greek.

Edith entered Vassar College at the age most students graduate. She rose to the top of her class - though her Greek accent was hilarious - and left in 1908 with a degree in mathematics and astronomy."

And something more: Jan Lower in the Author's Note explains that "in 2003, Edith Clarke was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. In recognition of her Clarke Calculator, Edith was inducted ninto the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. The University of Texas created the 'Edith Clarke Woman of Excellence Award' in her honor in 2016."


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