Forgotten Women of Technology - Yvonne Claeys Brill

WITI News Staff

September 03, 2019

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[Editor's note: This is a new on-going series the WITI staff has started in our effort to recognize women who have either been forgotten or not gotten the sincere appreciation they deserve.]

By: Lani Januchowski

Women have created some of the most notable and world-changing technology in history. Sadly, there has been a common trend of trying to keep this arena as a boys' club, and women -- once they manage to get work on a project -- are often forced afterward to explain their contributions to it.

Yvonne Claeys Brill faced this adversity when she was not welcomed into the University of Manitoba's engineering program. At the time, this was male only, as it was predetermined that only men could succeed in engineering.

Despite this challenge, Brill was extremely successful and graduated at the top of many of her classes, such as chemistry and math. She was incredibly hard-working, which can be seen in the work she created for years to come.

The 1940s was a time of many different forces of the world colliding, as well as a new fascination with space exploration. Yvonne Brill is said to be the only woman in the United States who was actively pursuing rocket science during this time. She helped detail the first space satellite for the United States during this period.

Brill is most known for her creation of a new and improved rocket thruster that allowed for a longer and more continuous travel period. This model was lighter, and allowed for more tools, which assisted in the new time frame.

Brill also helped create a number of other satellites that have helped scientists to better understand space and how it works. The first weather satellite and the first upper-atmosphere satellite were inventions created with the help of Brill's brilliant mind.

Yvonne Brill worked hard in her personal life as well to encourage women working in technology-based fields to receive proper recognition. She would talk to young girls and empower them to recognize their ability to achieve their goals in STEM fields. Facing so many difficult challenges herself, she found great importance in working towards a better future for women in technology.

After many years, Yvonne Brill finally received recognition for her astonishing work. In 2010 she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and the next year President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

This recognition was hard-earned after a career in which she was constantly forced to prove herself. This fight for worth is something that women are still facing today, and it is long overdue for change. The belief that anyone is any less capable of completing a job due to gender is entirely demeaning and blocks so many brilliant minds from the world of technology.

The world needs women in technology. The world needs the creations thought of by these girls who dream of solving the world's mysteries, and exploring the universe in which we live. We must all work to encourage young girls who want to become engineers and scientists and change the world. Yvonne Brill certainly did her part, writing letters of recommendation for talented women who she believed deserved recognition until her death in 2013.

Technology is a field for anyone with a dream of creating larger-than-life concepts that will shape the world for generations to come. Yvonne Brill was a notable rocket scientist who influenced this world and helped pave a road for those who, like her, have a dream of changing the world.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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