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British Industrial History

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Isabel Hardwich

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Isabel Helen Hardwich (née Cox), 19 September (1919-1987) was an electrical engineer and photometry expert, Fellow and President of the Women's Engineering Society.

1919 September 19th. Born in Streatham.

Attended Furzedown Primary School and Streatham Secondary School (both London County Council schools).

Studied at Newnham College, Cambridge to read for the Natural sciences Tripos, where she specialised in Physics.

1941 Upon leaving Cambridge, joined Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Co in Manchester initially completing a two-year college-apprenticeship course in engineering.[3]

Worked in the Research Department, becoming one of the original members of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electron Microscope team. After a year and a half of working on this project she shifted her focus and began building a photometric laboratory, however this was badly damaged in a fire. She subsequently worked on a setting up a Hilger large ultra-violet spectrometer, then designing an X-ray Geiger counter spectrometer. Like most of the staff, Hardwich lectured part-time at UMIST and RCAT, Salford.

1960 Given responsibility for the employment and training of 'technical' women within the company's research department. Throughout her career, she campaigned tirelessly to educate, recruit and support young women into the industry as professional engineers.

Hardwich became a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society in 1947 and joined the I.E.S Manchester Centre Committee in 1948, serving on both the Education and Papers sub-committees. She was elected an associate member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1950.

Hardwich was strongly involved in the Women's Engineering Society. She joined in 1941 and helped to set up its Manchester branch the year after, alongside her great friend motor engineer Elsie Eleanor Verity. She was elected to hold the office of vice-chairman of the Manchester Branch of the for the session 1946–1947. She subsequently served as chairman for the session 1947–1948. As chairman, Hardwich gave the first talk organised by the Manchester Branch in that year, a chairman's address entitled "Lighten Our Darkness", introducing the theory of relativity. She later went on to serve as the president of the Women's Engineering Society from 1961 to 1962.

She was also elected a fellow of the Society of Women Engineers.

1945 Married John Norman Hardwich who at the time was working as an engineer in the High Voltage Research Laboratory Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Co. He was an associate and also a keen supporter of the Women's Engineering Society, and he shared the burdens of running the home to allow Isabel to continue working at Metropolitan-Vickers.

Hardwich's archive is held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology. The Women's Engineering Society has awarded the Isabel Hardwich medal, named in her honour, since 1987. This is given to a member who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the Society over a number of years and gone above and beyond the call of duty.

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