Interview of Irene Carswell Peden by Brian Shoemaker
Creators:Peden, Irene Carswell, 1925-
Subjects (LCSH):Antarctica -- Social life and customs
Ionosphere -- Research -- History
Polar expeditions -- Interviews
Women scientists -- Interviews
Antarctica -- Discovery and exploration -- Interviews
Subjects (Other):Peden, Irene Carswell, 1925- -- Interviews
MetadataShow full item record
Publisher:Byrd Polar Research Center Archival Program
Series/Report no.:Polar Oral History Program
Dr. Irene Peden was the first female electrical engineer to spend time working in Antarctica. She was 76 years old at the time of this interview. She was born in Topeka, Kansas. Peden discusses her family, particularly her mother, and their views on education. She feels that her sense of determination came from this background. She had an early interest in science and eventually majored in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, beginning school at the age of 16 at Kansas City Junior College. Peden frequently comments on the roles of women at this time and how she and others had to work hard to break out of those accepted roles. Peden discusses the NISEP, active during wartime, and the door that was opened for women in the engineering department at the University of Colorado as a result of this organization. As a student she was a member of the Society of Women Engineers but not allowed in Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honorary society equivalent to Phi Beta Kappa, because they did not admit women. Peden got her first engineering job in 1947, making short-circuit calculations using an analog board for a power and light company. Peden’s first husband decided to finish his degree at Stanford and so they moved to California. She was hired by the Aircraft Engineering and Antenna Laboratory at what was then the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) to make calculations and asymptotic calculations on Burroughs machines for antenna research. In 1955 Peden began a graduate program at Stanford, working toward a Master’s degree, which she earned in 1957. She then moved on to earn a PhD from Stanford, working in the Stanford Microwave Lab, using high-powered microwave tubes to transition into the microwave solid state. During the last quarter of her PhD, Peden, with the aid of her mentor Dr. Donald K. Reynolds of the University of Washington and Joe Petit, Dean of Engineering at Stanford, was interviewed at the University of Washington, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Kansas. She accepted a position at the University of Washington in December of 1961. She finished writing her dissertation there and was awarded her PhD from Stanford in June of 1962. Peden was the first female engineering faculty member at the University of Washington. She taught two classes per quarter and began to do research on electromagnetic wave propagation. Don Reynolds and Myron Swarm had just gotten an Antarctic research grant from the Office of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation, to transmit low frequency from a 21-mile di-pole, twelve miles outside of old Byrd research station and Peden became involved in this project. The di-pole stretched out on the surface of the ice, with a station to which the terminals came in and a high-powered VHF transmitter attached to the terminals. This was called Longwire Station. The transmitter involved in this project was called Zeus. The policies of the Office of Polar Programs are discussed, particularly in relation to the understanding of Polar environments before beginning Polar research. Peden also discusses issues of passage with the Navy, particularly with Admiral David “Kelly” Welch. Larry Gould, Paul Gaffney, and Lois Jones are also mentioned. Ohio State is discussed as the first institution to send a full team of women to the Antarctic. Peden also repeatedly mentions the role that the National Science Foundation (NSF) played in getting her to the Antarctic. Julia Vikers was Peden’s Navy required female traveling companion. Members of the team on the Continent and at the Pole are mentioned here, including Phil Smith. Peden then goes on to describe her trip to Antarctica via Christchurch and her landing on the ice outside of McMurdo. At the time of this trip, Peden was 45 and Vikers was 27. A detailed description of the condition of the Byrd research station is given by Peden as well. Peden discusses the conditions of the Longwire station upon her arrival, 12 miles out from the Byrd station. Peden’s team at Longwire included Al Chandler, a graduate student, a radio controller, a mechanic, and Ev Pascal, senior scientist from the Byrd station who assisted when available. Pages 45-48 give a detailed account of Peden’s experiments and research gathering practices. Mary Alice, another female Antarctic researcher, is mentioned and Peden’s role as the first American woman, and probably the first woman period, to live and work in the interior as a PI is talked about. Siple station and Ev Pascal’s activity there is discussed. Upon Peden’s return to McMurdo, the equipment, which had been “missing” for her time at Longwire, turned up on a plane. Peden discusses this topic and her theories regarding scientific integrity as it applied to the inclusion of women at this time. The results of her research are discussed, including a bulk average value at VLF. The first deep drill hole all the way to the bottom of the ice sheet and Tony Gow and Jim Rogers part in this research are touched on. Peden goes on to posit ideas on how her research has been and could be used and how her experience in Antarctica affected her professional and personal life, including membership in the Explorers Club. Ester Rosthblum’s book, Women in the Antarctic, is mentioned along with Peden’s cruise trip to the Antarctic in 2001, which visited Palmer station. Dave Bresnahan, Antarctic Station Manager, came on board the ship to give them a lecture on Palmer, its history, and the work being done there and to present Peden with a watercolor of the station done by a female artist who was there. Bresnahan stated that at this time, 25-35% of the station personnel were women, an issue he was sure to enforce. Peden talks about her connection to NSF and Dennis Peacock, followed by her stint on the Polar Research Board, which she represented on a trip to Barrow, Alaska. She then became an Associate Dean of Engineering at Stanford and her research concentration changed to sub-surface remote sensing. She became a full professor in 1971 and a Fellow of the IEEE in 1973. From 1986-87, Peden spent time at the Naval Post-Graduate School, focusing on buried tunnel and submarine detection. Major Topics Dr. Irene Peden’s research trip to Longwire Station, Antarctica in 1970 NISEP Stanford Research Institute (SRI International) Stanford Microwave Lab Office of Polar Programs Byrd Antarctic Research Station Bulk average value at VLF Explorers Club National Science Foundation (NSF) Sub-surface remote sensing Siple Antarctic Research Station
Dr. Donald Reynolds, professor at Standford, pp. 16-17, 24-26, 28-29 Joe Petit, Dean at Stanford, pp. 17 Dean Wesman, University of Washington, pp. 17-19 Bill Harmon, electrical engineering professor at Standford, pp. 18-19, 21 Austin Eastman, pp. 20 Paul Ramsey, Nobel Prize winner in Physics, pp. 22-23 Myron Swarm, scientist, pp. 24-26, 28-29 Ray Heer, program manager at NSF, pp. 30. 33-36, 57 Admiral Kelly Welch, pp. 30-35, 55-56 Larry Gould, pp. 31-32 Paul Gaffney, pp. 32-33 Lois Jones, explorer, pp. 34, 50 Julie(a) Vickers, pp.35-38, 41, 43, 48 Ray Vickers, pp. 35-37 Al Chandler, pp. 39, 44-46, 52 Dave Eldridge, pp. 40 Chris______, pp. 41 Ev Pascal, senior scientist at the Byrd Polar Research Station, pp. 45-47, 53 Dr. John Katsufrakis, pp. 50 Mary Alice [McWhinney], pp. 50 The Croziers, pp. 51-52 Ted Rosenberg, pp. 55-56 Tony Gow, pp. 59-60 Steve_______pp. 60-61 Jim Rogers, pp. 61-62 Polly______pp. 66-67 Esther Rothblum, pp. 67 Dave Bresnahan, Antarctic Station Manager, pp. 67-69 Dennis Peacock, pp. 70-71 Dave Clark, pp. 72 Admiral Mark Pelaez, pp. 73 Neil________, pp. 74-75
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Other Identifiers:Record Group Number: 56.117
Rights:Restrictions: This item is not restricted.
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