New Scholarship Honors Pioneering Engineer Frances B. Hugle

Application deadline is 4 November for the IEEE Women in Engineering offering

15 October 2018

IEEE Women in Engineering has established the IEEE Frances B. Hugle Scholarship to honor the pioneering engineer, who started several companies in Silicon Valley. WIE says the US $2,500 annual scholarship will be presented to one female IEEE student member who has completed at least two years of undergraduate study in an engineering curriculum at an ABET-accredited university in the United States. The deadline to apply is 4 November.

EDUCATION

According to a post about Hugle on the Grandma Got STEM blog, she attended Hyde Park High School in New York, where she met her future husband, William. In 1944, at the age of 16, she became the first female to win the Wilson Junior College math tournament.

After Wilson, she attended the University of Chicago, where she earned a bachelor of philosophy degree. She attended the UC Medical School in 1944 but left in 1947. The school awarded her a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 1957 for the course work she had completed between 1944 and 1947.

She received a master’s degree in 1960 from the University of Cincinnati, then pursued a graduate degree in crystallography at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, N.Y.

SEVERAL STARTUPS

Hugle and her husband founded their first company, Hyco-Ames, in 1948. It was located in her parents’ apartment, according to the blog. The two focused on creating simulated star sapphires and rubies. Hyco-Ames did not produce any simulated gems, but the couple secured funding to build the crystallography equipment needed to manufacture them. Hugle designed and built an automatic, 6-cubic-foot Verneuil furnace that could reach 1,982 °C. The Verneuil process, also called flame fusion, was primarily used to produce the ruby and sapphire varieties of corundum, a hard aluminum oxide.

According to the blog, John G. Broady of New York City provided financial support to the company, which was renamed Stuart Laboratories. The company relocated to Broady’s law office in lower Manhattan, then moved to North Bergen, N.J.

Hugle continued to design and build crystallography equipment, but she did not file for any patents. In 1949 Stuart Laboratories succeeded in creating the first gem-quality translucent star sapphires and rubies, and began manufacturing and selling the stones. The next year, Stuart was sued for patent infringement—which shut down production.

From 1951 to 1953, the Hugles founded several other companies that grew crystals for the nascent electronics industry.

The Baldwin Piano Co. of Cincinnati hired Hugle and her husband in 1953. She was employed as a research engineer and he as her supervisor. While there, Hugle built a piano herself to learn more about the instrument and the business.

The couple invented numerous things including methods for producing semiconductive films and printed circuits, but they never filed patents for their inventions.

The Hugles founded other companies over the years, all based on equipment and manufacturing processes they developed, according to the blog. One of the first was Siliconix. The other significant, successful company was Hugle Industries, which manufactured epitaxial reactors and wire bonders for the electronics industry in the 1960s.

Hugle’s husband was president; she was the research director. Although Hugle Industries later was bought out and absorbed by a larger company, one of its spinoffs, Hugle Electronics of Tokyo, is still in business.

Siliconix also is still in business today, in California. It’s now a subsidiary of Vishay.

LEGACY

The Hugles are considered important technology pioneers in the development of Silicon Valley. Frances’s process for automated packaging of semiconductors was granted a patent after her death in 1969. She also developed tape-automated bonding, which led to the miniaturization of thousands of products including hearing aids and personal computers.

Her husband was an inventor and an entrepreneur, but she preferred engineering to business. She was not welcomed by many male engineers, though. Many of them resented having a female supervisor or sometimes even a woman for a peer, according to the blog.

“I am a woman and an engineer; I am not a woman engineer,” she often said, rebelling against the idea that her gender described the type of engineer she was.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Learn More