Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks

Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks

b: 28 APR 1854
d: 26 AUG 1923
41 Norfolk Square
London
W2
Cuttings from Effie Irene Ray-Jones (nee Pearce) red covered photo album/scrapbook:

Obituary from an unknown paper:

"A distinguished woman scientist:

We regret to announce that Mrs. Hertha Ayrton, the widow of Professor W.E. Ayrton, died on Sunday morning at the New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. Mrs Ayrton, whom Professor Ayrton married in 1885, was associated with her husband first as a pupil and later as a co-investigator. Having assisted him in some work on the physics of the electric arc, she continued investigations in the same subject during his absence in America, and became a recognized authority on the phenomena it presents, contributing papers to the British Association, Royal Society, Institution of Electrical Engineers and other scientific bodies. Her book "The Electric Arc" was published in 1902. Another subject to which she devoted her attention was the motion of water and the formation of sand-ripples. The merit of her scientific work was recognized by her election as the only woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and she would probably have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1902, had not the Council of that body decided, on legal advice, that they had no power to elect a woman. They, however, awarded her the Hughes medal in 1906.

In 1915 she invented and offered to the War Office a hand fan or flapping device for dissipating and countering poison gas attacks. She published an account of this device in an article which appeared in The Times in 1920, when she complained bitterly of official apathy towards scientific work, of delay in supplying the device to troops in the field after it had been accepted, and of failure to secure proper use of the fans when delivered. The first issue of the fans was made in April, 1916, and the total number supplied was 104,000.

Mrs Ayrton had one daughter, who is married to Mr. Gerald Gould. Her step-daughter is the wife of Mr Israel Zangwill.


"LADY'S TRIUMPH - Royal Society's Medal for Mrs Ayrton.

The awards of the Royal Society issued on Saturday are noteworthy for the fact that one of the medals is bestowed on a lady - Mrs Ayrton, wife of Professor Ayrton, the well-known electrical engineer and inventor. Mrs Ayrton obtains the Hughes medal - the first received by a lady for her own unaided efforts - for investigations on the electric arc and also upon sand ripples. The lady who has been thus honoured enjoys the distinction of being the only woman member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers...........

Remarkable career: Series of Papers Read Before the British Association

Mrs Ayrton, as stated, is the first woman who has been awarded the Hughes medal for scientific investigation conducted by herself. The same distinction was awarded to the late M. and Mme. Curie for their investigations into the nature and properties of radium.
To her mother, a woman of exceptional abilities, Mrs Ayrton owes a great deal of her success. Educated in London by Mrs. Hartog, mother of the famous senior wrangler of that name, Mrs Ayrton left school at sixteen, and began to earn her living by teaching at Girton College Cambridge, then in its infancy as a college for women, she took honours in mathematics, and it was there that she began original research in mathematics and physics. The first result of the course of study was the invention and construction of a sphymograph for recording the beats of the pulse, but this she abandoned on discovering that a somewhat similar instrument had previously been devised. Returning to London Mrs. Ayrton took out a patent for a line-divider, an instument for immediately dividing up a line into any number of equal parts.

In 1884 she turned her attention to electricity, and in the autumn of that year entered Finsbury Institute as a special student. It was here that she met Professor Ayrton, whom she subsequently married.

Help to her husband:

Indifferent health prevented the carrying out of any practical work on Mrs Ayrton's part for a time, but in 1893 she assisted in the completion of a series of experiments on the electric arc for Professor Ayrton during his absence in America. This aroused her interest in the subject, and the papers which the Professor read at the Electrical Congress in Chicago, having been unfortunately burnt, she made an abstract of the points he had noticed, and determined to continue the investigations on her own account.
The Hughes medal has been awarded to Mrs Ayrton partly as the result of her investigations into the electric arc and partly for her inquiries into the nature of sand ripples. A knowledge of sand ripples has an important bearing on the windings of rivers. By showing how the course of these may be diverted important investigations might result. The investigations for which Mrs Ayrton has been awarded the Hughes medal were begun in 1890. They are now completed, and in due course will be published in book form.
Her output of scientific literature has been considerable, and she has contributed numerous articles to papers which devote themselves to the study of electricity. Mrs Ayrton read papers before the British Association in 1895, 1897 and 1898; the Institute of Electrical engineers in 1899; the Electrical Congress in 1900; and the Royal Society in 1901.
Mrs Ayrton's recreations are sketching and novel reading. She lives in Norfolk-square, W.


Undated press cutting in Ann Mendell's copy of the Chaplin and Skinner family book:

Today a hundred former students of Girton College met at luncheon at the Cafe Monico to do honour to Mrs Ayrton, an old Girtonian who has lately been awarded the Hughes medal of the Royal Society for her discovery of the way in which ripples in sand are formed by water. If she were not a married woman, Mrs Ayrton would probably be a Fellow of the Royal Society, for in 1902 she was nominated by six Fellows according to rule. But the Royal Society consists of persons, and a married woman is not legally a person. She is, however, a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, who elected her some years ago as a recognition of her original work on the hissing of the electric arc.


From the Daily Chronicle, Friday 6 November 1906

Lady Scientist
Mrs Ayrton's Theory about the Goodwins
Huge sand ripples

Time brings its revenges. In 1902 learned counsel held that Mrs Ayrton, being not only a woman but also a married woman, was debarred from election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. Had she been single, she might have had a chance, but being married, no amount of scientific distinction could render her eligible. Now (as we announced yesterday) Mrs Ayrton has been awarded the first medal ever granted by the Royal Society to a woman for her own unaided research. The medal awarded to Mme Curie was for work in conjunction with her husband.
"I can hardly say when I first began to be interested in science," said Mrs Ayrton to a "Daily Chronicle" representative. "I studied mathematics at Girton. No, I was not very distinguished; I only took a Third Class. I am very bad at examinations; I can't learn things easily. When I left - that was in 1881 - I took up private coaching and being interested in science, went to the Finsbury College, where Professor Ayrton was a professor.
"It was not till 1893," continued Mrs Ayrton, that I began work investigating the electric arc. Professor Ayrton was reading a paper on the subject in Chicago - that was the paper which was afterwards so unfortunately burnt - and he had not had time to complete his experiments before leaving England, so his assistant and I continued the series, sending the reports out to him in America. Then I became very interested in the subject, and determined to continue the investigations myself. I read my first paper on the arc before the British Association at Ipswich in 1895."

A visit to Margate

The whole of Mrs Ayrton's investigations and researches with regard to the electric arc she gathered into a volume, which was published in 1902. She is, as is well known, the only woman member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. But the Hughes medal of the Royal Society has been awarded her not only for these researches, but for experimental investigations on sand ripples.
"I happened to be at Margate with my husband," explained Mrs Ayrton, "and there I first became interested in the sand ripples, and tried to find out how they were caused, partly by observation, but much more by experiment. You see, it is impossible to make the sea do exactly what you want; and, further, in observing ripples on the shore, one must look down on them, and it is essential in watching such processes to see them in profile. So I had proper glass troughs made, and I found out exactly how ripples were caused.
"You see sand ripples may seem at first a small subject, but any explanation involves all the principles underlying the motion of water and of bodies oscillating in the water. I am still engaged in these researches, and am occupied with two papers dealing with two different parts of the subject."

The Goodwins

"One's aim in scientific research of this character," said Mrs Ayrton, in answer to an inquiry as to this aspect of her work, "is to find out what underlies certain phenomena; but I feel sure that in the end it will be of practical use in dealing with coast erosion or quicksands. At present our knowledge of the motion of water is slight. I made the suggestion - and I still believe it to be true - that the Goodwin Sands are really huge ripples. There is a narrow spit ot land near the Goodwins, and it seems possible that if the configuration of the shore could be altered and the trend of the water changed, the Goodwins might disappear." On the interesting character of scientific research Mrs Ayrton was enthusiastic. "There is nothinng so fascinating, so absorbing," she said. "You think and think about certain phenomena till you think out a possible solution, and then you experiment to see if it is correct; and as you experiment your attention is drawn to fresh phenomena, and experiments must be started afresh to account for these in their turn. "And I believe," remarked Mrs Ayrton, "that women are really well adapted for this work. They often have leisure; they have a great habit of putting two and two together - men deny that, but it is true - and they have quite as good powers of observation as men, and great patience. For scientific research you must have intuition, a kind of trained imagination, that leads you to form a theory about what you see, from which you can experiment, and I think women have that kind of intuitive power; the power as it were, of spreading out facts in their minds and drawing the threads together, and coming to a logical conclusion. That is very different," concluded Mrs Ayrton with a smile," from being able to lay our these connecting threads for someone else to see."


From CWP at physics.UCLA.edu

Hertha (Sarah) Marks Ayrton 1854-1923
Some Important Contributions:
Her work on the electric arc was precursor to the field of plasma physics. She discovered the connection between pressure in the arc and current length, and the composition and shape of the electrodes. -- Professor Walter Gekelman.

"In her research on the electric arc she had carried all before her, and produced the standard book on the subject." -- A. P. Trotter, President of The Institution of Electrical Engineers, ... - ...
Analyzed the fluid dynamics of waves on the sea shore; the causes and process of formation of ripples in the sand.

"The movements of waves and eddies of perfect fluids .. have been a favourite theme for mathematicians. .. Lord Rayleigh and Prof. George Darwin had made such calculations... Mrs. Ayrton began with pure experimental observation. .. After her husband's death she turned the large drawing room of her house into a laboratory and equipped it with glass tanks. .. I do not know if Mrs. Ayrton found that her practical observations conflicted with their [ Lord Rayleigh and Prof Darwin] results. They were offered to The Royal Society and criticisms were raised. .. Her paper was rejected by a referee; but Lord Rayleigh ..championed her cause, her paper was accepted, and the Hughes gold medal was awarded to her for this and her work on the electric arc." -- ibid.
Her understanding of fluid dynamics enabled invention of a fan to create eddies of air that could be used to repel gas attacks. It was called the Ayrton fan.

"It must be remembered that when poison gas was first used in war [WWI], chlorine, a heavy gas, was blown across by the wind. The Aryton fan was quite capable of rolling it back in the open and, unexpectedly, even by Mrs. Ayrton, of clearing dugouts into which gas had fallen." -- ibid.

Some Important Publications
"The Light Emitted by the Continuous Current Arc," Electrician 45: 921 (1900).
The Electric Arc. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1902.
"The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A84: 285 (1910).
"On a New Method of Driving off Poisonous Gases," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A96: 249 (1919-20).

Honors
First woman to be elected member of The Institution of Electrical Engineers (London) 1899
Hughes Medal, Royal Society (London) 1906
Hertha Ayrton Research Fellowship established in Girton College, Cambridge.

Education
1876-81 Girton College, Cambridge University
Completed the Cambridge Tripos in 1881.
1884-85 Finsbury Technical College

References consulted
[1 N20], [8 MBO], [33A LSG], [n1923ha], [n1923tm]

Additional Information
Ayrton's father died when she was seven leaving his family in debt. As a young woman she supported herself and helped support her family by tutoring and embroidery.
While she was in her teens Sarah Marks adopted the name Hertha, after the Teutonic earth goddess eulogized by Swinburne.
Married William Edward Ayrton, professor of physics and noted electrical engineer, in 1885. He is known to have been very supportive of women's education and legal rights. They had a daughter Barbara.
First woman to read a paper ("The Hissing of the Electric Arc," 1899) to the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The Institute elected her their first female member. She was awarded £10 prize for that paper.
First woman to read a paper ("The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," 1904) to the Royal Society (London). Three years earlier, Ayrton's paper, "The Mechanism of the Electric Arc," had to be read to the Society by a man (John Perry). [8 MBO]
Ayrton began to study sand ripples in 1901 after her husband had become ill and required long stays at the seashore. [15B PGA]
For further reading about Ayrton's scientific work see reminiscences of A. P. Trotter.
Ayrton actively participated in demonstrations for women's suffrage.
Founding member, in 1920, of the National Union of Scientific Workers. [1 N20]
In 1912, provided refuge for Marie Curie from the turmoil and tragedy of her husband's untimely death, and wrote in her defense that "An error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat."
For further reading see, for example, the interesting biographical article by Marjorie Malley [33A LSG]

Copyright © CWP and Regents of the University of California 1997.
To cite this citation: " Ayrton, Hertha(Sarah) Marks." CWP
< http://www.physics.ucla.edu/~cwp>

From "Hertha Ayrton: A Memoir" by Evelyn Sharp, publ Edward Arnold, London, 1926:

Extracts from this substantial book are too extensive to be included here, so I have saved them as a Word file, 'Ayrton, Hertha, a memoir.doc'

END
William Edward Ayrton

1901 Census:

High Mead, Woodham Walter (Parish of St Michael), Essex [RG13 Piece 1690 Folio 84 Page 8]:

Phoebe S Ayrton Wife Mar 46 Electrician Born Hants, Portsea
Edith C Ayrton Dau S 26 Private means Born Japan (British subject)
Barbara B Ayrton Dau S 14 Private means Born London
Israel Zangwill Visitor S 37 Man of letters Own account Born London
Amelia Hollmann Servant S 34 Domestic Born London
Winifred Bowron Servant S 17 Domestic Born London


The Atheneum Nr 4429, 14 November 1908.

PROF W.E. AYRTON, F.R.S.

We regret to record the death of well-known engineer, Professor William Edward Ayrton, F. R. S., Dean of the Central Technical College, South Kensington, which occurred on Sunday last at his house in Norfolk Square [Nr 41]. He was born in 1847, and was educated at University College School and at University College, London. At the age of 20, he entered the Indian Government Telegraph service, where he is so distinguished himself that five years later, after having returned to England to superintend the making of the Great Western Telegraph Cable, he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering at Tokyo. Here he remained until his second return to England, six years later, when he was appointed Professor of Electrical Engineering at the City & Guilds of London Technical Institute in Finsbury. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1881. In 1887 Ayrton published his "Practical Electricity," which he described as a "Laboratory and Lecture Course for First-Year Students of Electrical Engineering," and which was perhaps the first work impressing upon beginners in electricity the necessity of a rational method of electrical measurement. The success of the book was such as to astonished the author, and it has since been through 10 editions, and has been more than once rewritten. He became President of The Physical Society in 1891, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892; presided over the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in 1888, and delivered lectures for the same body on the visit to Johannesburg in 1905. He was transferred to the Central Technical College on its opening at South Kensington in 1884, was elected its Dean in 1904, and remained in that position to his death. He leaves a widow, Mrs Hertha Ayrton whom he married soon after his first appointment to the Chair of Electrical Engineering and who assisted him in many of his experiments, being herself the author of a book on "The Electrical Arc" and many papers on scientific subjects; while his daughter Edith married in 1903 Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist.

Professor Ayrton was throughout his life a resolute and ardent experimenter, and his improvements in scientific instruments have been very successful, the most famous of them being, perhaps, the galvanometers which he invented in conjunction with Professor Perry and Mr Thomas Mather, F. R. S.. He was also an eloquent and occasionally humorous lecturer, and an excellent teacher of electrical engineering, many of those who have since risen to eminence in that essentially modern profession having studied under him. His health, which was always delicate, and had been declining for some time before his death, was doubtless the reason why he did not develop a greater literary output.


Press cutting, un-named and undated but perhaps from the Times Engineering Supplement:

Death of Professor Ayrton

"The Times" of this morning says: -- We regret to announce that Professor Ayrton, the well-known physicist and electrician, died at his residence in Norfolk Square on Saturday morning. William Edward Ayrton was the son of a barrister, and was born in London on September 14, 1847. He was educated at University College School and University College, and after a brilliant career at the latter institution obtained the first place in 1867 in the examination for the Indian Government Telegraph Service. For a short time he studied electrical engineering under Lord Kelvin, and in 1868 went out to Bengal as Assistant Electrical Superintendent of the Telegraph Department, being promoted to the position of Superintendent in 1871. During his term of service he took part in introducing over the whole Telegraph system in British India a method of locating a fault in a telegraph line by means of tests at one end. In 1872 he was sent to England on a special mission to superintend manufacture of the Great Western Telegraph cable under its engineers, Lord Kelvin and Professor Jenkins, and in 1873 he returned to the East, not to India, but as Professor of Physics and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering, Tokyo. There he remained for six years, but in 1879 he came back to England and took up the post of Professor of Applied Physics at the Sainsbury College of the City & Guilds of London Technical Institute. Finally in 1884 he was transferred to the Central College in Exhibition Road as Professor of Electrical Engineering, a position which he retained up to the present time.

In scientific literature Ayrton's name is closely associated with that of Professor Perry. This association dated from 1875, when Professor Perry went out to Tokyo to fill the Chair of Engineering at the College. The collaboration of the two men began almost immediately, and indeed such was the activity of the combination that Clerk Maxwell is said to have jestingly remarked that the electrical centre of gravity had been shifted to Japan. Their joint investigations gave rise to numerous papers on various branches of electrical science, and were fruitful not merely on the theoretical side. What they achieved in the development of the practical application of electricity was perhaps even more remarkable. Visitors to the Science Hall at the Franco-British Exhibition had the opportunity of examining the evolution of the wonderful series of instruments dating from 1881 to 1889, by which they gave the electrical engineer the means of measuring almost every electrical quantity he has to deal with, and which were the only electrical meters that were awarded prizes at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Then they acted as joint engineers to the Faure Accumulator Company almost from its inception, and in that capacity they lighted the Grand Hotel at Charing Cross with electricity in 1883.

Strong believers in the future of electric traction, they demonstrated the application of electrical power to tramway's, devising among other things a surface contact or "stud" system, and they shared with Fleeming Jenkin the credit of perfecting his sister of telpherage which was put into operation at Glynde in Sussex. Their work in these directions resulted in taking out of a large array of patents and the publication of numerous scientific and technical papers. Ayrton's name in many cases alone, in others joined with that of other investigators, figures on probably 150 memoirs or more. The Royal Society, of which he was elected a Fellow in 1881, recognised his services to electrical science by awarding him a Royal medal in 1901, and among other honours he served as President of the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in 1888, of the Physical Society in 1890 -- 91, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892. His book on "Practical Electricity" has come through many editions, and been invaluable to thousands of learners, while his personal example and instruction has inspired many pupils to serious and productive research. He was a frequent contributor to "The Times" Engineering Supplement. Professor Ayrton married in 1883 Hertha, daughter of Levi and Alice Marks, who is well-known for her researches on the electric are, and has the distinction of being the first and only lady member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. Their daughter married Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist, in 1903.


Letter to The Times of Wednesday 11 November 1908 by Israel Zangwill:

Sir,

Allow me to correct a slight inaccuracy in the concluding sentence of your obituary notice of Professor Ayrton. Mrs Zangwill was his daughter by his first marriage with Matilda Charlotte Chaplin, M.D., B.Sc. Mrs Chaplin was his cousin, and they had several distinguished uncles, including the Right Hon. Acton Smee Ayrton, the well-known member of Gladstone's Cabinet.

Indeed, the long succession of Ayrton celebrities through more than two centuries might well supply Galton with a valuable chain of evidence. Miss Chaplin, whose brilliant career is dealt with at length in the "Dictionary of National Biography" was a pioneer of medical education and practice for women, indeed a martyr to the cause, for so fiercely and unchivalrously was the war against women carried on that she died on the battlefield in the flower of her life.

It is characterestic of Professor Ayrton that in both his marriages he was guided by the same affinity for intellectual womanhood, and although the present Mrs Ayrton was in the same line of work as himself he did not, like some men of science, absorb her life and her results into his own. On the contrary he exerted himself to have her care.er recognized as separate and individual. This was his real contribution to the cause of woman suffrage.

May I add that there was one other particular in which Professor Ayrton set an example to men of science. He was scrupulously careful not to lend the weight of his reputation to any doubtful scientific projects of a commercial order; indeed, he went out of his way to draw attention to what he considered the dubiousness of certain schemes, and in his very last days he was occupied with the thought of saving the small investor from the pseudo-scientific shark. Quite recently strong temptations were held out to him to bless a grandiose colonial enterprise, but to the disappointment of the promoters he cursed instead.

Finally, I should like to say that your admirable summary of his scientific achievements by no means exhausts the man. He wrote - as your own columns have borne witness - a nervous English of a lucidity and sparkle rare even among men of letters. His lectures, enhanced by his rare personal beauty, were fascinating in form and delivery, and his marvellous memory could dispense upon occasion with even the briefest note. In private life he overflowed with wit, humour and geniality; he was an excellent amateur actor, and even conjurer, and he was vastly exercised to unveil the methods of so-called thought-readers. He was also exceedingly fond of music, and although no form of current religion appealed to his intellect, he found in oratorio satisfaction for his emotions. Extremely economical by dint of his early strugles, he yet allowed himself the extravagance of blank cheques to friends in distress. The energy of America and Americans was one of his greatest admirations - alas! - a more than American energy was the cause of his premature breakdown. But few men have crowded more into sixty years than this literally restless worker, who, apart from his individual inventions, practically created the whole idea and system of electrical technical training, and has left a school of disciples to carry all over the world the fruits of his labours and the inspiration of his devotion to science, truth, purity, and honour.

Yours obediently, ISRAEL ZANGWILL Far End, East Preston, Worthing, Nov 10.


Funerals: From The Times(?) of unknown date:

The funeral of Professor Ayrton took place yesterday at Brompton Cemetery. There was no service in the ordinary sense of the word. Several hundreds of persons including many well-known scientific men, stood with heads uncovered in the enclosure, which was roped off.................. Following the coffin were Mr. and Mrs. Israel Zangwill, Miss Margaret Ayrton, Mrs. Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Holroyd Chaplin, and several nephews and nieces..... There were also present Sir James Dewar, Dr, Ewing, Director of Naval Instruction; Dr. Bovey, rector of the Imperial College [followed by many others in the scientific world].

Professor Perry delivered a funeral oration. He said it was against Professor Ayrton's wishes to have any religious ceremony ....... because he hought we had no right to try to express, through any simple formula, the awful and unknown conditions of death and life. Ayrton was a scientific man, and, if there was one principle which more than another was fostered by scientific pursuits it was that the most important work could only be done when there was no expectation of much reward. There were some people who owed all their happiness and distinction to Ayrton's large generosity with his money ...............

Mr. Israel Zangwill said that they were thinking that day less of the work than of the man .................. Their friend's passion for justice, combined with his feeling of many incidents of painful injustice which they saw upon this planet, kept him from adopting any religious formula. It might be too that his early work in Kapan, by revealing to him the soul of agreat self-sacrificing people, whose ideas of religious feeling were so urrerly alien to our own, made it impossible for him to find expression in any one code or creed. Mainly he was of a religious temperament - witness his love of religious music such as they had brought to his graveside because they knew it would please him. His life was full of those virtues which are usually classed as religious. His honesty was such that it rode triumphant over all those temptations which were dangled before the scientific expert by the too expert man of business. His passion for justice caused him to maintain strongly that women workeres were entitled to academic rewards; that science was of no sex and chivalry did not mean the opening to ladies of drawing-room doors while they closed to them the doors of scientific society ............

The opening meeting of the 38th session of the Institution of Electrical Engineers was last night adjourned ..... owing to the death of Professor Ayrton. Mr W.M.Morley, the new president, spoke of the late professor's achievments in electrical science. He had been connected with the Institute almost from its inception....... Professor Perry said that Professor Ayrton's methods had been adopted in every college in this country, not only in connection with electricity but also with mechanics. His numerous investigations added power to electrical science, and they belonged to its history. He was strong mentally until the end, and that memoir of Lord Kelvin which he wrote, and which was published in The Times Engineering Supplement soon after Lord Kelvin's death, was alone worthy of Goldsmith or Lamb.............

From The Athenaeum No. 429, 14 November 1908

We regret to record the death of well-known engineer, Prof William Edward Ayrton, F. R. S., Dean of the Central Technical College, South Kensington, which occurred on Sunday last at his house in Norfolk Square. He was born in 1847, and was educated at University College School and at University College, London. At the age of 20, he entered the Indian Government telegraph service, where he so distinguished himself that five years later, after having returned to England to superintend the making of the Great Western Telegraph Cable, he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering at Tokyo. Here he remained until his second return to England, six years later, when he was appointed Prof of Electrical Engineering at the City & Guilds of London Technical Inst in Finsbury. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1881.
In 1887 Ayrton publish his "Practical Electricity," which he described as a "Laboratory and Lecture Course for First-Year Students of Electrical Engineering," and which was perhaps the first work impressing upon beginners in electricity the necessity of a rational method of electrical measurement. The success of the book was such as to astonish the author, and it has since being through ten editions, and has been more than once rewritten. He became President of the Physical Society in 1881, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892; presided over the Mathematical and Fiscal Section of the British Association in 1888, and delivered lectures for the same body on the visit to Johannesburg in 1905. He was transferred to the Central Technical College on its opening at South Kensington in 1884, was elected its Dean in 1904, and remained in that position to his death.

He leaves a widow, Mrs Hertha Ayrton, whom he married soon after his first appointment to the Chair of Electrical Engineering and who assisted him in many of his experiments, being herself the author of a book of "The Electric Arc" and many papers and scientific subjects; while his daughter Edith married in 1903 Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist. Prof Ayrton was throughout his life a resolute and ardent experimenter, and his improvements in scientific instruments have being very successful, the most famous of them being, perhaps, the galvanometers which he invented in conjunction with Prof Perry and Mr Thomas Mather F. R. S.. He was also an eloquent and occasionally humorous lecturer, and an excellent teacher of electrical engineering, many of those who have since risen to eminence in that essentially modern profession having studied under him. His health, which was always delicate, and had been declining for some time before his death, was doubtless the reason why he did not develop a greater literary output.


Philip Ray-Jones writes:

My grandmother (Irene Kate Pearce) told me that she was whipped at school for telling lies, because she said (quite correctly) that the light could be turned on in her cousin's (Prof Ayrton's) house by using a switch.

From "Hertha Ayrton: A Memoir" by Evelyn Sharp, publ Edward Arnold, London, 1926:

p.115: "Mrs Ayrton Chaplin, [Edith Elizabeth Pyne], a cousin by marriage of Professor Ayrton and sister-in-law of his first wife, mentions ... in some notes she gave the present writer on Miss [Hertha] Marks, whose intimate friend she became "Hertha's love of beauty..... must have been much satisfied by the unusual beauty of her husband as a young man in his prime....... She also enjoyed the beauty of her step-daughter, and though she was glad of the same gift for her own daughter she never, so far as I know, thought of comparing the two half-sisters......"......... Another mutual acquaintance...... has told me of Hertha's arresting personality and interesting conversation, adding with reference to Professor Ayrton: "I always liked being taken to dinner by him; he had such courtly manners, and you could not feel shy with him. If you were shy, he did all the talking and put you at your ease." [But] It is possible that some of his pupils did not find...... themselves at ease with him; for, as one of them has told me, "The trouble with the Professor was that he never realized how clever he was, and so he expected far too much from ordinary people........... when absorbed in an experiment [he] would not leave it for meals.... his wife was the only person who could make him remember [that] he required food and sleep."

p.117: "He knew well enough how readily any success that [Hertha] achieved would be attributed to [him].

pp.160-165: November 1901: Hertha wrote to Edie: "Isn't it delightful about the gold medal for Father? Mr Swan was putting him forward, and Professor Perry was backing him up, so to say; and we heard he had little chance, as the Council wanted to give it to some younger man. So late as yesterday, Professor Perry evidently feared Father was not going to get it, because he wrote him a most charming letter which arrived this morning, saying that Father's work deserved, not one medal only, but many medals. However, last night, a telegram came, signed Swan and Perry, congratulating him on having got it, so that's all right. Father won't show that he is pleased; but he is - very. More pleased at Professor Perry's letter than at the medal, I think!"

At about the same time Hertha failed to be admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, because Counsel's opinion was that it was doubtful if the Charters (dated 1662, 1663, and 1669) covered women at all, and certainly not married women. The Royal Society could have applied for a Supplemental Charter to get over the difficulty, but didn't do so. So it was curious, when the matter was raised again in1922, following the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act concerned with the enfranchisement of women, that the Royal Society again took Counsel's opinion, and were eventually informed that women were, as they had thought, eligible for election under the existing Charters!

p.206: On his death in November 1908 the official organ of the Women's Social and Political Union (Votes for Women) wrote of him: "His appreciation of and practical sympathy with the work for woman suffrage was at all times freely demonstrated, and the loyal support and hearty encouragement which was his unfailing attitude towards the leaders of the WSPU, whose personal friend he was, will be sadly missed by them. The world will be the poorer, the cause of humanity, with which the women's movement is indissolubly bound up, immeasurably the loser, by he death of the great and good man whose loss we deplore so sincerely and truly today."

Alan Ray-Jones writes:

My mother Effie Ray-Jones (nee Pearce) said that he was the illegitimate son of Frederick Ayrton and a Cornish fisherman's daughter. But she surely meant his brother Edward Nugent, not Frederick? William Ayrton was born in London - where? I have been unable to find any record of his birth, though the date is known, but I can obtain his marriage certificates, which should give his parents' names but may not, since illegitimacy was such a stigma. Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary entry for 4 December 1873 reads: "Wrote to Will to tell him of his dear Father's death". Edward had died on 28 November (Frederick also died in 1873, but in June). There are several references in the diary connecting William to Edward, and none connecting him to Frederick. My mother said that, despite his fame and success in life, Professor Ayrton was not included in Nugent Chaplin's book on the family because he was illegitimate.
IEE Archives - The Life of Hertha Ayrton

Hertha's experiments with the electric arc Hertha Ayrton was an extraordinary woman, not only because she was the first woman to grace this Institution, but because of the impact she appears to have had on anyone who came into contact with her. As her husband, Professor William Ayrton, once said to her cousin, Dr. Philip Hartog, "you and I are able people, but Hertha is a genius."

She was born in 1854 as Sarah Marks, the third child of a Polish Jewish watchmaker. Her father died in 1861, leaving Sarah's mother with seven children and an eighth expected. Sarah certainly took on some of the responsibility for caring for the younger children, one that she never relinquished in the case of her younger sister, Lavinia, but her mother, Alice Marks, was a very strong woman. In spite of the temptation to keep her daughter at home to help with the upbringing of the younger children, she was determined that the family's difficult circumstances were not going to stand in the way of Sarah's obvious intellectual capabilities. In 1863, Sarah's aunt, Marion Hartog, offered to take her to London, to be educated in the school she ran with her husband. Mrs Marks, holding the view that women needed more, not less, of an education than men as life was likely to be harder for them, allowed Sarah to go.

At the Hartogs' school, Sarah established her reputation both as a scholar and a fighter in the cause of justice, once going on hunger strike for two days when wrongly accused of some misdemeanour. It was this principle which later lead to her committed involvement with the suffrage movement. She was always keen to promote the idea of women's fitness to vote through her own achievements in a male-dominated field, but she was never shy of making herself prominent in the political arena. She took part in marches and demonstrations and opened her home to women released from jail after being on hunger-strike, including Mrs Pankhurst.

At the age of sixteen, she became self-sufficient, working as a governess, but she still had a desire for her own education. An introduction to Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon in 1873 led to her applying to Girton College, of which Madame Bodichon was one of the founders. It was through Madame Bodichon that she first became friends with the novelist, George Eliot, who was also a keen supporter of education for women. A letter from Eliot in 1875 shows that she had taken a personal interest in Hertha's efforts to raise the necessary funds to take up her place at Girton: I have written to one lady, who I know will help us if she can. But I think I must give up the attempt to interest anyone else until I have the opportunity of personal intercourse with our friends.

At the time that Eliot met Hertha, she was working on Daniel Deronda, in which one of the major characters is a young Jewish girl with a distinctive voice and a talent for singing. Eliot was already interested in Jewish history and had conceived the character of Mirah before she made the acquaintance of Hertha Marks, but it is also undeniable that Mirah shares many physical and personal characteristics with Hertha: the dark, curly hair, the distinctive voice on which Eliot had commented when speaking to Hertha and of course, their Jewishness.

At college Hertha was renowned for the mental agility which led her to seek out practical applications to any problem and while still a student she invented a device for recording pulse beats - and a line divider. As in later life, however, intellectual endeavours never occupied her to the exclusion of other interests. She was responsible for the founding of the college Fire Brigade and was a prominent member of the Choral Society. She also seems to have played a most significant part in college life, with one fellow student describing her as "always the most striking figure among the students." Her result in her final exam, however, did not reflect her ability; she was placed fifteenth in the Third Class. She wrote to Madame Bodichon afterwards, expressing her sorrow at having failed so badly. "I think it is very hard on you after all you have done for me, that I should do no better. It is not for want of work, nor even entirely of brains, but rather a want of memory and still more presence of mind in the exam. room. So I have turned out a failure."

After leaving college, she returned to teaching as a means of supporting herself, but continued her own education at the same time, attending classes at the Finsbury Technical College. Her lecturer was Professor William Ayrton, who became President of the IEE in 1892.

William AyrtonHe and Hertha were married in 1885. For some time after their marriage, domestic responsibilities took up much of Hertha's energies; she was never particularly physically strong and had already had to defer her studies at Girton because of poor health. She did however keep up some of her own work and in 1888, gave a series of lectures for women on electricity. When Barbara Bodichon died in 1891, the legacy she left to Hertha enabled her to employ a housekeeper and give her attention more fully to the challenges of scientific research.

At this time, Professor Ayrton was engaged in research into the electric arc, but when a paper he was due to present was accidentally destroyed, Hertha took over the project while the professor turned his attention to other matters. Always supportive of his wife's endeavours, Ayrton was scrupulous about not collaborating with her as he knew that any joint work would undoubtedly be credited to himself by the world at large. So Hertha turned her attention to the sometimes eccentric behaviour of the arc. In 1895 she published a series of articles in The Electrician on the subject and in March 1899, was the first woman to present a paper to the IEE. She was elected to full membership of the Institution two months later.
Hertha and the Electric Arc

The arc lamp, widely used at this time for lighting in streets and public buildings, could be problematic because of its tendency to hiss, with the result that the light produced was apt to be inconstant. Hertha's experiments explained that the hissing and the accompanying change in appearance of the arc were caused when oxygen came into contact with the crater formed in the carbon. This happened when the crater was too large to occupy only the end of the positive carbon and extended up the side, thus coming into direct contact with the air and causing it to burn rather than to volatilise. Hertha proved through careful experiment that if air was excluded from the arc, the hissing did not occur. Neither did it occur when nitrogen or other component parts of air were introduced in isolation. She demonstrated that if the arc could be protected from direct contact with air, the hissing and the subsequent reduction in performance of the lamp could be prevented.

Hertha's experiments with the electric arc
Hertha and the Scientific Establishment

The IEE appears to have distinguished itself by the purely professional interest they took in Hertha's work, tending to support her own view that it was the merit of the research which mattered, not the gender of the scientist, but other institutions were not so welcoming. In 1902 she was proposed as a Fellow of the Royal Society, causing consternation. Her candidature was supported by some notable men of science, but when the council of the Royal Society met to discuss the issue, it was decreed as follows:

We are of the opinion that married women are not eligible as Fellows of the Royal Society. Whether the Charters admit of the election of unmarried women appears to us to be very doubtful.

Nevertheless, Hertha read a paper at the Royal Society in 1904, describing her new work on ripple movements in sand and water. She remains the only woman to have been awarded the Hughes medal, which she received in 1906 for her work on the arc and on sand ripples. Over the next few years she continued her experiments on ripples, constantly refining them to answer the criticisms of her results. At the outbreak of the Great War, she began to apply the theories she had developed about oscillations in water to the movement of air. With her habitual practical turn of mind, this was quickly put to use in the invention of the Ayrton Flapper Fan. She encountered some difficulty in getting the military to consider her idea, but her invention was eventually adopted and used to clear the trenches of poisonous gas. After the war, she continued with her work in this field until her death in 1923.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Ayrton [nee Marks], (Phoebe) Sarah [Hertha] (1854-1923),
electrical engineer and suffragist, was born Phoebe Sarah
Marks on 28 April 1854 at 6 Queen Street, Portsea, near
Portsmouth, third child of Alice Theresa (d. 1898), seam-
stress, daughter of Joseph Moss, glass merchant of Port-
sea, and Levi Marks (d. 1861), watchmaker and jeweller of
Petworth, Sussex. Levi Marks, whose father was a Polish
innkeeper, came to England to escape pogroms; he died as
his impoverished family, with six boys, was expecting
another child. When Sarah was nine her aunts Marion
Hartog and Belle Leo, who ran a school in north-west Lon-
don with Alphonse Hartog, invited her to live with them
to be educated with her cousins. Her mother generously
agreed. Sarah learned languages and music in this tal-
ented family; her cousin Marcus introduced her to sci-
ence, and Numa (the first Jewish senior wrangler) to math-
ematics. Sarah and her family mostly became agnostic,
though proud of their Jewish heritage. At sixteen she
began teaching in London to support her mother. With
Ottilie Blind, who called her Hertha after Swinburne (and
the earth goddess Erda), she took the Cambridge Univer-
sity (local) examination for women. She was encouraged
by her friends and patrons Barbara Bodichon, artist,
women's activist, and co-founder of the new Girton Col-
lege for women, and George Eliot. Marquis (Marky), as
they called Sarah, with her curly black hair and grey-green
eyes, was an exemplar for Mirah, heroine of Daniel
Deronda, as Barbara Bodichon was for Romola.
Hertha read mathematics at Cambridge from 1877 to
1881, coached by Richard Glazebrook. While at Girton she
constructed a sphygmomanometer (pulse recorder), led
the choral society, founded the fire brigade, and with
Charlotte Scott, Girtton's first wrangler, formed a math-
ematical club. She published problems and solutions in
Mathematical Questions from the Educational Times for almost
two decades. After her return to London she earned
money by teaching and embroidery. She ran a club for
working girls and cared for her invalid sister. She invented
a line divider, which was sold under her patent. In 1884
she went to Will Ayrton's evening classes in electricity at
Finsbury Technical College.
Hertha and William Edward •Ayrton (1847-1908) were
married in 1885 and their daughter, Barbara, was born in
1886. Will Ayrton was an electrical engineer and
co-founder of the City and Guilds Institute. His first wife,
his cousin Matilda Chaplin (1846-1883), was a pioneer
woman doctor, with his encouragement; their daughter
Edith, who married Israel Zangwill, wrote novels as Edith
Ayrton Zangwill; the Zangwills' son, Oliver, was professor
of experimental psychology at Cambridge.
Hertha Ayrton lectured to women on electricity and its
domestic potentialities. She took over Ayrton's experi-
ments on the electric arc at South Kensington while he
was at the Chicago Electrical Congress in 1893. She traced
the hissing, sputtering, and instability to oxidation of the
positive carbon. Excluding air, she obtained a steady arc
and demonstrated a linear relationship between arc
length, pressure, and potential difference, the Ayrton
equation. Observing the image on a screen, she showed
that cratering, as the carbon evaporates, determines the
potential for a given current and arc length, and improved
efficiency by reshaping the electrodes.
Her analysis and technical advances, described in
twelve papers in The Electrician (1895-6), established her
reputation, unique for a woman. She demonstrated her
experiments at the Royal Society's Conversazione in 1899
and spoke on "The hissing of the electric arc' at the Institu-
tion of Electrical Engineers. The institution elected her
MIEE, the only woman member until 1958. Her lecture
"L'intensite lumineuse de 1'arc a courants continus' at the
International Electrical Congress in Paris in 1900 helped
Marcus Hartog persuade the British Association to allow
women on to their committees. John Perry gave her paper
on "The mechanism of the electric arc' at the Royal Society
in 1901. Her book The Electric Arc (1902), which became a
standard work, included the history from Davy's discov-
ery in 1800 (and a dedication to Barbara Bodichon). She
later patented anti-aircraft searchlights, developed for the
Admiralty, and arc lamp technology.
From 1901, when Will Ayrton was convalescing at the
seaside in Margate, Kent, she studied the formation of
sand ripples and sand bars by wave motions of the water,
conducting experiments in the landlady's zinc bath, with
soap dishes and baking tins. Back home, in her attic, she
produced stationary waves of different wavelengths by
rocking glass vessels 4 to 44 inches wide, using perman-
ganate, paint, or metal powder to show eddies and vorti-
ces. She reported her work to the Royal Society in 1904 (in
person), in 1908, and 1911, and to the British Association
and the Physical Society. The mathematical description
gave difficulty: it is now known to involve complicated vis-
cous effects and (chaotic) turbulence. After Will Ayrton
died in 1908 she moved her laboratory down to the draw-
ing room, as shown in the photograph 'Mrs Ayrton in her
Laboratory' (Appleyard, 167-8). Her interest in vortices in
water and air inspired the Ayrton fan, or flapper, used in
the trenches in the First World War to dispel poison gas.
She fought for its acceptance and organized its produc-
tion, over 100,000 being used on the western front.
In 1902 John Perry, with distinguished co-signatories,
proposed her candidature for the Royal Society, but law-
yers pronounced that a married woman, having no stand-
ing in law, was ineligible. Such arguments were quashed
by the Sex Disqualification Removal Act (1919), but no
woman was proposed again until 1944. In 1906, however,
she was awarded the society's Hughes medal for her work
on the electric arc and on sand ripples. In 1998 she
remained the only female recipient of this medal,
awarded annually for original discovery in the physical
sciences. Armstrong's obituary in Nature exemplifies the
opposition to such work by a woman, and elicited a
rebuttal.
Hertha Ayrton, despite recurrent ill health, supported
by her extended family, was a stalwart of the women's
movement. She chaired the physical science section of
the International Congress of Women in London in 1899,
and encouraged women in applied science. She supported
the militant suffragists, as did her friend Marie Curie, who
brought her daughters for summer holidays with her in
1912 and 1913. Hertha marched in all the suffrage proces-
sions: in 1911, with 800 women graduates in academic
dress (which Cambridge women could not wear until
1948), she was in the science section. In 1912-13 Mrs Pank-
hurst and others recovering from hunger strike were
nursed in Hertha's home, returning to prison when they
recovered, under the 'Cat and Mouse Act' (the Prisoners'
Temporary Discharge Act of 1913). Hertha was "very
proud' when her daughter Barbara Bodichon Ayrton
*Gould (1886-1950) went to prison in 1912. Barbara
became Labour member of parliament for Hendon North
in 1945; her husband, Gerald Gould (d. 1936), was a poet
and journalist; their son was the artist Michael 'Ayrton
(1921-1975).
Hertha Ayrton helped found the International Feder-
ation of University Women in 1919 and the National
Union of Scientific Workers in 1920. She died of blood poi-
soning (resulting from an insect bite) on 26 August 1923 at
New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. JOAN MASON


Sources DNB • E. Sharp, Hertha Ayrton, 1854-1923: a memoir (1926) •
K. T. Butler and H. I. McMorran, eds., Girton College register, 1869-1946
(1948), 8-9 • J. Mason, 'Hertha Ayrton and the admission of women
to the Royal Society of London', Notes and Records of the Royal Society,
45 (1991), 201-20 • Early days of the electrical industry, and other reminis-
cences of Alexander P. Trotter (1948), 125-9 • R. Appleyard, The history
of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1871-1931 (1939). 167-8 • A. P.
Trotter, 'Mrs. Ayrton's work on the electric arc'. Nature, 113 (1924),
48-9 • H. Armstrong, Nature, 112 (1923), 800-01 • T. Mather, Nature,
112 (1923), 939 [rebuttal of Armstrong's obit.] • private information
(2004) • b. cert. • d. cert.
Archives Museum of Jewish Life. Golders Green, London, Stein-
berg Centre, Edith Chaplin Ayrton diaries
Likenesses H. Darmesteter, portrait, Girton Cam. • photograph,
repro. in Sharp, Hertha Ayrton, frontispiece • photograph, repro. in
Appleyard, History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers • photo-
graphs, Girton Cam.
Wealth at death £8160 8s. 6d.: probate, 19 Oct 1923, CGPIAEng. &
Wales


Biography
41 Norfolk Square
London
W2 Cuttings from Effie Irene Ray-Jones (nee Pearce) red covered photo album/scrapbook:

Obituary from an unknown paper:

"A distinguished woman scientist:

We regret to announce that Mrs. Hertha Ayrton, the widow of Professor W.E. Ayrton, died on Sunday morning at the New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. Mrs Ayrton, whom Professor Ayrton married in 1885, was associated with her husband first as a pupil and later as a co-investigator. Having assisted him in some work on the physics of the electric arc, she continued investigations in the same subject during his absence in America, and became a recognized authority on the phenomena it presents, contributing papers to the British Association, Royal Society, Institution of Electrical Engineers and other scientific bodies. Her book "The Electric Arc" was published in 1902. Another subject to which she devoted her attention was the motion of water and the formation of sand-ripples. The merit of her scientific work was recognized by her election as the only woman member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, and she would probably have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1902, had not the Council of that body decided, on legal advice, that they had no power to elect a woman. They, however, awarded her the Hughes medal in 1906.

In 1915 she invented and offered to the War Office a hand fan or flapping device for dissipating and countering poison gas attacks. She published an account of this device in an article which appeared in The Times in 1920, when she complained bitterly of official apathy towards scientific work, of delay in supplying the device to troops in the field after it had been accepted, and of failure to secure proper use of the fans when delivered. The first issue of the fans was made in April, 1916, and the total number supplied was 104,000.

Mrs Ayrton had one daughter, who is married to Mr. Gerald Gould. Her step-daughter is the wife of Mr Israel Zangwill.


"LADY'S TRIUMPH - Royal Society's Medal for Mrs Ayrton.

The awards of the Royal Society issued on Saturday are noteworthy for the fact that one of the medals is bestowed on a lady - Mrs Ayrton, wife of Professor Ayrton, the well-known electrical engineer and inventor. Mrs Ayrton obtains the Hughes medal - the first received by a lady for her own unaided efforts - for investigations on the electric arc and also upon sand ripples. The lady who has been thus honoured enjoys the distinction of being the only woman member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers...........

Remarkable career: Series of Papers Read Before the British Association

Mrs Ayrton, as stated, is the first woman who has been awarded the Hughes medal for scientific investigation conducted by herself. The same distinction was awarded to the late M. and Mme. Curie for their investigations into the nature and properties of radium.
To her mother, a woman of exceptional abilities, Mrs Ayrton owes a great deal of her success. Educated in London by Mrs. Hartog, mother of the famous senior wrangler of that name, Mrs Ayrton left school at sixteen, and began to earn her living by teaching at Girton College Cambridge, then in its infancy as a college for women, she took honours in mathematics, and it was there that she began original research in mathematics and physics. The first result of the course of study was the invention and construction of a sphymograph for recording the beats of the pulse, but this she abandoned on discovering that a somewhat similar instrument had previously been devised. Returning to London Mrs. Ayrton took out a patent for a line-divider, an instument for immediately dividing up a line into any number of equal parts.

In 1884 she turned her attention to electricity, and in the autumn of that year entered Finsbury Institute as a special student. It was here that she met Professor Ayrton, whom she subsequently married.

Help to her husband:

Indifferent health prevented the carrying out of any practical work on Mrs Ayrton's part for a time, but in 1893 she assisted in the completion of a series of experiments on the electric arc for Professor Ayrton during his absence in America. This aroused her interest in the subject, and the papers which the Professor read at the Electrical Congress in Chicago, having been unfortunately burnt, she made an abstract of the points he had noticed, and determined to continue the investigations on her own account.
The Hughes medal has been awarded to Mrs Ayrton partly as the result of her investigations into the electric arc and partly for her inquiries into the nature of sand ripples. A knowledge of sand ripples has an important bearing on the windings of rivers. By showing how the course of these may be diverted important investigations might result. The investigations for which Mrs Ayrton has been awarded the Hughes medal were begun in 1890. They are now completed, and in due course will be published in book form.
Her output of scientific literature has been considerable, and she has contributed numerous articles to papers which devote themselves to the study of electricity. Mrs Ayrton read papers before the British Association in 1895, 1897 and 1898; the Institute of Electrical engineers in 1899; the Electrical Congress in 1900; and the Royal Society in 1901.
Mrs Ayrton's recreations are sketching and novel reading. She lives in Norfolk-square, W.


Undated press cutting in Ann Mendell's copy of the Chaplin and Skinner family book:

Today a hundred former students of Girton College met at luncheon at the Cafe Monico to do honour to Mrs Ayrton, an old Girtonian who has lately been awarded the Hughes medal of the Royal Society for her discovery of the way in which ripples in sand are formed by water. If she were not a married woman, Mrs Ayrton would probably be a Fellow of the Royal Society, for in 1902 she was nominated by six Fellows according to rule. But the Royal Society consists of persons, and a married woman is not legally a person. She is, however, a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, who elected her some years ago as a recognition of her original work on the hissing of the electric arc.


From the Daily Chronicle, Friday 6 November 1906

Lady Scientist
Mrs Ayrton's Theory about the Goodwins
Huge sand ripples

Time brings its revenges. In 1902 learned counsel held that Mrs Ayrton, being not only a woman but also a married woman, was debarred from election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. Had she been single, she might have had a chance, but being married, no amount of scientific distinction could render her eligible. Now (as we announced yesterday) Mrs Ayrton has been awarded the first medal ever granted by the Royal Society to a woman for her own unaided research. The medal awarded to Mme Curie was for work in conjunction with her husband.
"I can hardly say when I first began to be interested in science," said Mrs Ayrton to a "Daily Chronicle" representative. "I studied mathematics at Girton. No, I was not very distinguished; I only took a Third Class. I am very bad at examinations; I can't learn things easily. When I left - that was in 1881 - I took up private coaching and being interested in science, went to the Finsbury College, where Professor Ayrton was a professor.
"It was not till 1893," continued Mrs Ayrton, that I began work investigating the electric arc. Professor Ayrton was reading a paper on the subject in Chicago - that was the paper which was afterwards so unfortunately burnt - and he had not had time to complete his experiments before leaving England, so his assistant and I continued the series, sending the reports out to him in America. Then I became very interested in the subject, and determined to continue the investigations myself. I read my first paper on the arc before the British Association at Ipswich in 1895."

A visit to Margate

The whole of Mrs Ayrton's investigations and researches with regard to the electric arc she gathered into a volume, which was published in 1902. She is, as is well known, the only woman member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. But the Hughes medal of the Royal Society has been awarded her not only for these researches, but for experimental investigations on sand ripples.
"I happened to be at Margate with my husband," explained Mrs Ayrton, "and there I first became interested in the sand ripples, and tried to find out how they were caused, partly by observation, but much more by experiment. You see, it is impossible to make the sea do exactly what you want; and, further, in observing ripples on the shore, one must look down on them, and it is essential in watching such processes to see them in profile. So I had proper glass troughs made, and I found out exactly how ripples were caused.
"You see sand ripples may seem at first a small subject, but any explanation involves all the principles underlying the motion of water and of bodies oscillating in the water. I am still engaged in these researches, and am occupied with two papers dealing with two different parts of the subject."

The Goodwins

"One's aim in scientific research of this character," said Mrs Ayrton, in answer to an inquiry as to this aspect of her work, "is to find out what underlies certain phenomena; but I feel sure that in the end it will be of practical use in dealing with coast erosion or quicksands. At present our knowledge of the motion of water is slight. I made the suggestion - and I still believe it to be true - that the Goodwin Sands are really huge ripples. There is a narrow spit ot land near the Goodwins, and it seems possible that if the configuration of the shore could be altered and the trend of the water changed, the Goodwins might disappear." On the interesting character of scientific research Mrs Ayrton was enthusiastic. "There is nothinng so fascinating, so absorbing," she said. "You think and think about certain phenomena till you think out a possible solution, and then you experiment to see if it is correct; and as you experiment your attention is drawn to fresh phenomena, and experiments must be started afresh to account for these in their turn. "And I believe," remarked Mrs Ayrton, "that women are really well adapted for this work. They often have leisure; they have a great habit of putting two and two together - men deny that, but it is true - and they have quite as good powers of observation as men, and great patience. For scientific research you must have intuition, a kind of trained imagination, that leads you to form a theory about what you see, from which you can experiment, and I think women have that kind of intuitive power; the power as it were, of spreading out facts in their minds and drawing the threads together, and coming to a logical conclusion. That is very different," concluded Mrs Ayrton with a smile," from being able to lay our these connecting threads for someone else to see."


From CWP at physics.UCLA.edu

Hertha (Sarah) Marks Ayrton 1854-1923
Some Important Contributions:
Her work on the electric arc was precursor to the field of plasma physics. She discovered the connection between pressure in the arc and current length, and the composition and shape of the electrodes. -- Professor Walter Gekelman.

"In her research on the electric arc she had carried all before her, and produced the standard book on the subject." -- A. P. Trotter, President of The Institution of Electrical Engineers, ... - ...
Analyzed the fluid dynamics of waves on the sea shore; the causes and process of formation of ripples in the sand.

"The movements of waves and eddies of perfect fluids .. have been a favourite theme for mathematicians. .. Lord Rayleigh and Prof. George Darwin had made such calculations... Mrs. Ayrton began with pure experimental observation. .. After her husband's death she turned the large drawing room of her house into a laboratory and equipped it with glass tanks. .. I do not know if Mrs. Ayrton found that her practical observations conflicted with their [ Lord Rayleigh and Prof Darwin] results. They were offered to The Royal Society and criticisms were raised. .. Her paper was rejected by a referee; but Lord Rayleigh ..championed her cause, her paper was accepted, and the Hughes gold medal was awarded to her for this and her work on the electric arc." -- ibid.
Her understanding of fluid dynamics enabled invention of a fan to create eddies of air that could be used to repel gas attacks. It was called the Ayrton fan.

"It must be remembered that when poison gas was first used in war [WWI], chlorine, a heavy gas, was blown across by the wind. The Aryton fan was quite capable of rolling it back in the open and, unexpectedly, even by Mrs. Ayrton, of clearing dugouts into which gas had fallen." -- ibid.

Some Important Publications
"The Light Emitted by the Continuous Current Arc," Electrician 45: 921 (1900).
The Electric Arc. New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 1902.
"The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A84: 285 (1910).
"On a New Method of Driving off Poisonous Gases," Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A96: 249 (1919-20).

Honors
First woman to be elected member of The Institution of Electrical Engineers (London) 1899
Hughes Medal, Royal Society (London) 1906
Hertha Ayrton Research Fellowship established in Girton College, Cambridge.

Education
1876-81 Girton College, Cambridge University
Completed the Cambridge Tripos in 1881.
1884-85 Finsbury Technical College

References consulted
[1 N20], [8 MBO], [33A LSG], [n1923ha], [n1923tm]

Additional Information
Ayrton's father died when she was seven leaving his family in debt. As a young woman she supported herself and helped support her family by tutoring and embroidery.
While she was in her teens Sarah Marks adopted the name Hertha, after the Teutonic earth goddess eulogized by Swinburne.
Married William Edward Ayrton, professor of physics and noted electrical engineer, in 1885. He is known to have been very supportive of women's education and legal rights. They had a daughter Barbara.
First woman to read a paper ("The Hissing of the Electric Arc," 1899) to the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The Institute elected her their first female member. She was awarded £10 prize for that paper.
First woman to read a paper ("The Origin and Growth of Ripple Marks," 1904) to the Royal Society (London). Three years earlier, Ayrton's paper, "The Mechanism of the Electric Arc," had to be read to the Society by a man (John Perry). [8 MBO]
Ayrton began to study sand ripples in 1901 after her husband had become ill and required long stays at the seashore. [15B PGA]
For further reading about Ayrton's scientific work see reminiscences of A. P. Trotter.
Ayrton actively participated in demonstrations for women's suffrage.
Founding member, in 1920, of the National Union of Scientific Workers. [1 N20]
In 1912, provided refuge for Marie Curie from the turmoil and tragedy of her husband's untimely death, and wrote in her defense that "An error that ascribes to a man what was actually the work of a woman has more lives than a cat."
For further reading see, for example, the interesting biographical article by Marjorie Malley [33A LSG]

Copyright © CWP and Regents of the University of California 1997.
To cite this citation: " Ayrton, Hertha(Sarah) Marks." CWP
< http://www.physics.ucla.edu/~cwp>

From "Hertha Ayrton: A Memoir" by Evelyn Sharp, publ Edward Arnold, London, 1926:

Extracts from this substantial book are too extensive to be included here, so I have saved them as a Word file, 'Ayrton, Hertha, a memoir.doc'

END William Edward Ayrton

1901 Census:

High Mead, Woodham Walter (Parish of St Michael), Essex [RG13 Piece 1690 Folio 84 Page 8]:

Phoebe S Ayrton Wife Mar 46 Electrician Born Hants, Portsea
Edith C Ayrton Dau S 26 Private means Born Japan (British subject)
Barbara B Ayrton Dau S 14 Private means Born London
Israel Zangwill Visitor S 37 Man of letters Own account Born London
Amelia Hollmann Servant S 34 Domestic Born London
Winifred Bowron Servant S 17 Domestic Born London


The Atheneum Nr 4429, 14 November 1908.

PROF W.E. AYRTON, F.R.S.

We regret to record the death of well-known engineer, Professor William Edward Ayrton, F. R. S., Dean of the Central Technical College, South Kensington, which occurred on Sunday last at his house in Norfolk Square [Nr 41]. He was born in 1847, and was educated at University College School and at University College, London. At the age of 20, he entered the Indian Government Telegraph service, where he is so distinguished himself that five years later, after having returned to England to superintend the making of the Great Western Telegraph Cable, he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering at Tokyo. Here he remained until his second return to England, six years later, when he was appointed Professor of Electrical Engineering at the City & Guilds of London Technical Institute in Finsbury. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1881. In 1887 Ayrton published his "Practical Electricity," which he described as a "Laboratory and Lecture Course for First-Year Students of Electrical Engineering," and which was perhaps the first work impressing upon beginners in electricity the necessity of a rational method of electrical measurement. The success of the book was such as to astonished the author, and it has since been through 10 editions, and has been more than once rewritten. He became President of The Physical Society in 1891, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892; presided over the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in 1888, and delivered lectures for the same body on the visit to Johannesburg in 1905. He was transferred to the Central Technical College on its opening at South Kensington in 1884, was elected its Dean in 1904, and remained in that position to his death. He leaves a widow, Mrs Hertha Ayrton whom he married soon after his first appointment to the Chair of Electrical Engineering and who assisted him in many of his experiments, being herself the author of a book on "The Electrical Arc" and many papers on scientific subjects; while his daughter Edith married in 1903 Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist.

Professor Ayrton was throughout his life a resolute and ardent experimenter, and his improvements in scientific instruments have been very successful, the most famous of them being, perhaps, the galvanometers which he invented in conjunction with Professor Perry and Mr Thomas Mather, F. R. S.. He was also an eloquent and occasionally humorous lecturer, and an excellent teacher of electrical engineering, many of those who have since risen to eminence in that essentially modern profession having studied under him. His health, which was always delicate, and had been declining for some time before his death, was doubtless the reason why he did not develop a greater literary output.


Press cutting, un-named and undated but perhaps from the Times Engineering Supplement:

Death of Professor Ayrton

"The Times" of this morning says: -- We regret to announce that Professor Ayrton, the well-known physicist and electrician, died at his residence in Norfolk Square on Saturday morning. William Edward Ayrton was the son of a barrister, and was born in London on September 14, 1847. He was educated at University College School and University College, and after a brilliant career at the latter institution obtained the first place in 1867 in the examination for the Indian Government Telegraph Service. For a short time he studied electrical engineering under Lord Kelvin, and in 1868 went out to Bengal as Assistant Electrical Superintendent of the Telegraph Department, being promoted to the position of Superintendent in 1871. During his term of service he took part in introducing over the whole Telegraph system in British India a method of locating a fault in a telegraph line by means of tests at one end. In 1872 he was sent to England on a special mission to superintend manufacture of the Great Western Telegraph cable under its engineers, Lord Kelvin and Professor Jenkins, and in 1873 he returned to the East, not to India, but as Professor of Physics and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering, Tokyo. There he remained for six years, but in 1879 he came back to England and took up the post of Professor of Applied Physics at the Sainsbury College of the City & Guilds of London Technical Institute. Finally in 1884 he was transferred to the Central College in Exhibition Road as Professor of Electrical Engineering, a position which he retained up to the present time.

In scientific literature Ayrton's name is closely associated with that of Professor Perry. This association dated from 1875, when Professor Perry went out to Tokyo to fill the Chair of Engineering at the College. The collaboration of the two men began almost immediately, and indeed such was the activity of the combination that Clerk Maxwell is said to have jestingly remarked that the electrical centre of gravity had been shifted to Japan. Their joint investigations gave rise to numerous papers on various branches of electrical science, and were fruitful not merely on the theoretical side. What they achieved in the development of the practical application of electricity was perhaps even more remarkable. Visitors to the Science Hall at the Franco-British Exhibition had the opportunity of examining the evolution of the wonderful series of instruments dating from 1881 to 1889, by which they gave the electrical engineer the means of measuring almost every electrical quantity he has to deal with, and which were the only electrical meters that were awarded prizes at the Paris Exhibition of 1889. Then they acted as joint engineers to the Faure Accumulator Company almost from its inception, and in that capacity they lighted the Grand Hotel at Charing Cross with electricity in 1883.

Strong believers in the future of electric traction, they demonstrated the application of electrical power to tramway's, devising among other things a surface contact or "stud" system, and they shared with Fleeming Jenkin the credit of perfecting his sister of telpherage which was put into operation at Glynde in Sussex. Their work in these directions resulted in taking out of a large array of patents and the publication of numerous scientific and technical papers. Ayrton's name in many cases alone, in others joined with that of other investigators, figures on probably 150 memoirs or more. The Royal Society, of which he was elected a Fellow in 1881, recognised his services to electrical science by awarding him a Royal medal in 1901, and among other honours he served as President of the Mathematical and Physical Section of the British Association in 1888, of the Physical Society in 1890 -- 91, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892. His book on "Practical Electricity" has come through many editions, and been invaluable to thousands of learners, while his personal example and instruction has inspired many pupils to serious and productive research. He was a frequent contributor to "The Times" Engineering Supplement. Professor Ayrton married in 1883 Hertha, daughter of Levi and Alice Marks, who is well-known for her researches on the electric are, and has the distinction of being the first and only lady member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. Their daughter married Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist, in 1903.


Letter to The Times of Wednesday 11 November 1908 by Israel Zangwill:

Sir,

Allow me to correct a slight inaccuracy in the concluding sentence of your obituary notice of Professor Ayrton. Mrs Zangwill was his daughter by his first marriage with Matilda Charlotte Chaplin, M.D., B.Sc. Mrs Chaplin was his cousin, and they had several distinguished uncles, including the Right Hon. Acton Smee Ayrton, the well-known member of Gladstone's Cabinet.

Indeed, the long succession of Ayrton celebrities through more than two centuries might well supply Galton with a valuable chain of evidence. Miss Chaplin, whose brilliant career is dealt with at length in the "Dictionary of National Biography" was a pioneer of medical education and practice for women, indeed a martyr to the cause, for so fiercely and unchivalrously was the war against women carried on that she died on the battlefield in the flower of her life.

It is characterestic of Professor Ayrton that in both his marriages he was guided by the same affinity for intellectual womanhood, and although the present Mrs Ayrton was in the same line of work as himself he did not, like some men of science, absorb her life and her results into his own. On the contrary he exerted himself to have her care.er recognized as separate and individual. This was his real contribution to the cause of woman suffrage.

May I add that there was one other particular in which Professor Ayrton set an example to men of science. He was scrupulously careful not to lend the weight of his reputation to any doubtful scientific projects of a commercial order; indeed, he went out of his way to draw attention to what he considered the dubiousness of certain schemes, and in his very last days he was occupied with the thought of saving the small investor from the pseudo-scientific shark. Quite recently strong temptations were held out to him to bless a grandiose colonial enterprise, but to the disappointment of the promoters he cursed instead.

Finally, I should like to say that your admirable summary of his scientific achievements by no means exhausts the man. He wrote - as your own columns have borne witness - a nervous English of a lucidity and sparkle rare even among men of letters. His lectures, enhanced by his rare personal beauty, were fascinating in form and delivery, and his marvellous memory could dispense upon occasion with even the briefest note. In private life he overflowed with wit, humour and geniality; he was an excellent amateur actor, and even conjurer, and he was vastly exercised to unveil the methods of so-called thought-readers. He was also exceedingly fond of music, and although no form of current religion appealed to his intellect, he found in oratorio satisfaction for his emotions. Extremely economical by dint of his early strugles, he yet allowed himself the extravagance of blank cheques to friends in distress. The energy of America and Americans was one of his greatest admirations - alas! - a more than American energy was the cause of his premature breakdown. But few men have crowded more into sixty years than this literally restless worker, who, apart from his individual inventions, practically created the whole idea and system of electrical technical training, and has left a school of disciples to carry all over the world the fruits of his labours and the inspiration of his devotion to science, truth, purity, and honour.

Yours obediently, ISRAEL ZANGWILL Far End, East Preston, Worthing, Nov 10.


Funerals: From The Times(?) of unknown date:

The funeral of Professor Ayrton took place yesterday at Brompton Cemetery. There was no service in the ordinary sense of the word. Several hundreds of persons including many well-known scientific men, stood with heads uncovered in the enclosure, which was roped off.................. Following the coffin were Mr. and Mrs. Israel Zangwill, Miss Margaret Ayrton, Mrs. Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Holroyd Chaplin, and several nephews and nieces..... There were also present Sir James Dewar, Dr, Ewing, Director of Naval Instruction; Dr. Bovey, rector of the Imperial College [followed by many others in the scientific world].

Professor Perry delivered a funeral oration. He said it was against Professor Ayrton's wishes to have any religious ceremony ....... because he hought we had no right to try to express, through any simple formula, the awful and unknown conditions of death and life. Ayrton was a scientific man, and, if there was one principle which more than another was fostered by scientific pursuits it was that the most important work could only be done when there was no expectation of much reward. There were some people who owed all their happiness and distinction to Ayrton's large generosity with his money ...............

Mr. Israel Zangwill said that they were thinking that day less of the work than of the man .................. Their friend's passion for justice, combined with his feeling of many incidents of painful injustice which they saw upon this planet, kept him from adopting any religious formula. It might be too that his early work in Kapan, by revealing to him the soul of agreat self-sacrificing people, whose ideas of religious feeling were so urrerly alien to our own, made it impossible for him to find expression in any one code or creed. Mainly he was of a religious temperament - witness his love of religious music such as they had brought to his graveside because they knew it would please him. His life was full of those virtues which are usually classed as religious. His honesty was such that it rode triumphant over all those temptations which were dangled before the scientific expert by the too expert man of business. His passion for justice caused him to maintain strongly that women workeres were entitled to academic rewards; that science was of no sex and chivalry did not mean the opening to ladies of drawing-room doors while they closed to them the doors of scientific society ............

The opening meeting of the 38th session of the Institution of Electrical Engineers was last night adjourned ..... owing to the death of Professor Ayrton. Mr W.M.Morley, the new president, spoke of the late professor's achievments in electrical science. He had been connected with the Institute almost from its inception....... Professor Perry said that Professor Ayrton's methods had been adopted in every college in this country, not only in connection with electricity but also with mechanics. His numerous investigations added power to electrical science, and they belonged to its history. He was strong mentally until the end, and that memoir of Lord Kelvin which he wrote, and which was published in The Times Engineering Supplement soon after Lord Kelvin's death, was alone worthy of Goldsmith or Lamb.............

From The Athenaeum No. 429, 14 November 1908

We regret to record the death of well-known engineer, Prof William Edward Ayrton, F. R. S., Dean of the Central Technical College, South Kensington, which occurred on Sunday last at his house in Norfolk Square. He was born in 1847, and was educated at University College School and at University College, London. At the age of 20, he entered the Indian Government telegraph service, where he so distinguished himself that five years later, after having returned to England to superintend the making of the Great Western Telegraph Cable, he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Telegraphy at the Imperial College of Engineering at Tokyo. Here he remained until his second return to England, six years later, when he was appointed Prof of Electrical Engineering at the City & Guilds of London Technical Inst in Finsbury. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1881.
In 1887 Ayrton publish his "Practical Electricity," which he described as a "Laboratory and Lecture Course for First-Year Students of Electrical Engineering," and which was perhaps the first work impressing upon beginners in electricity the necessity of a rational method of electrical measurement. The success of the book was such as to astonish the author, and it has since being through ten editions, and has been more than once rewritten. He became President of the Physical Society in 1881, and of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1892; presided over the Mathematical and Fiscal Section of the British Association in 1888, and delivered lectures for the same body on the visit to Johannesburg in 1905. He was transferred to the Central Technical College on its opening at South Kensington in 1884, was elected its Dean in 1904, and remained in that position to his death.

He leaves a widow, Mrs Hertha Ayrton, whom he married soon after his first appointment to the Chair of Electrical Engineering and who assisted him in many of his experiments, being herself the author of a book of "The Electric Arc" and many papers and scientific subjects; while his daughter Edith married in 1903 Mr Israel Zangwill, the novelist. Prof Ayrton was throughout his life a resolute and ardent experimenter, and his improvements in scientific instruments have being very successful, the most famous of them being, perhaps, the galvanometers which he invented in conjunction with Prof Perry and Mr Thomas Mather F. R. S.. He was also an eloquent and occasionally humorous lecturer, and an excellent teacher of electrical engineering, many of those who have since risen to eminence in that essentially modern profession having studied under him. His health, which was always delicate, and had been declining for some time before his death, was doubtless the reason why he did not develop a greater literary output.


Philip Ray-Jones writes:

My grandmother (Irene Kate Pearce) told me that she was whipped at school for telling lies, because she said (quite correctly) that the light could be turned on in her cousin's (Prof Ayrton's) house by using a switch.

From "Hertha Ayrton: A Memoir" by Evelyn Sharp, publ Edward Arnold, London, 1926:

p.115: "Mrs Ayrton Chaplin, [Edith Elizabeth Pyne], a cousin by marriage of Professor Ayrton and sister-in-law of his first wife, mentions ... in some notes she gave the present writer on Miss [Hertha] Marks, whose intimate friend she became "Hertha's love of beauty..... must have been much satisfied by the unusual beauty of her husband as a young man in his prime....... She also enjoyed the beauty of her step-daughter, and though she was glad of the same gift for her own daughter she never, so far as I know, thought of comparing the two half-sisters......"......... Another mutual acquaintance...... has told me of Hertha's arresting personality and interesting conversation, adding with reference to Professor Ayrton: "I always liked being taken to dinner by him; he had such courtly manners, and you could not feel shy with him. If you were shy, he did all the talking and put you at your ease." [But] It is possible that some of his pupils did not find...... themselves at ease with him; for, as one of them has told me, "The trouble with the Professor was that he never realized how clever he was, and so he expected far too much from ordinary people........... when absorbed in an experiment [he] would not leave it for meals.... his wife was the only person who could make him remember [that] he required food and sleep."

p.117: "He knew well enough how readily any success that [Hertha] achieved would be attributed to [him].

pp.160-165: November 1901: Hertha wrote to Edie: "Isn't it delightful about the gold medal for Father? Mr Swan was putting him forward, and Professor Perry was backing him up, so to say; and we heard he had little chance, as the Council wanted to give it to some younger man. So late as yesterday, Professor Perry evidently feared Father was not going to get it, because he wrote him a most charming letter which arrived this morning, saying that Father's work deserved, not one medal only, but many medals. However, last night, a telegram came, signed Swan and Perry, congratulating him on having got it, so that's all right. Father won't show that he is pleased; but he is - very. More pleased at Professor Perry's letter than at the medal, I think!"

At about the same time Hertha failed to be admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Society, because Counsel's opinion was that it was doubtful if the Charters (dated 1662, 1663, and 1669) covered women at all, and certainly not married women. The Royal Society could have applied for a Supplemental Charter to get over the difficulty, but didn't do so. So it was curious, when the matter was raised again in1922, following the passage of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act concerned with the enfranchisement of women, that the Royal Society again took Counsel's opinion, and were eventually informed that women were, as they had thought, eligible for election under the existing Charters!

p.206: On his death in November 1908 the official organ of the Women's Social and Political Union (Votes for Women) wrote of him: "His appreciation of and practical sympathy with the work for woman suffrage was at all times freely demonstrated, and the loyal support and hearty encouragement which was his unfailing attitude towards the leaders of the WSPU, whose personal friend he was, will be sadly missed by them. The world will be the poorer, the cause of humanity, with which the women's movement is indissolubly bound up, immeasurably the loser, by he death of the great and good man whose loss we deplore so sincerely and truly today."

Alan Ray-Jones writes:

My mother Effie Ray-Jones (nee Pearce) said that he was the illegitimate son of Frederick Ayrton and a Cornish fisherman's daughter. But she surely meant his brother Edward Nugent, not Frederick? William Ayrton was born in London - where? I have been unable to find any record of his birth, though the date is known, but I can obtain his marriage certificates, which should give his parents' names but may not, since illegitimacy was such a stigma. Matilda Adriana Chaplin's diary entry for 4 December 1873 reads: "Wrote to Will to tell him of his dear Father's death". Edward had died on 28 November (Frederick also died in 1873, but in June). There are several references in the diary connecting William to Edward, and none connecting him to Frederick. My mother said that, despite his fame and success in life, Professor Ayrton was not included in Nugent Chaplin's book on the family because he was illegitimate. IEE Archives - The Life of Hertha Ayrton

Hertha's experiments with the electric arc Hertha Ayrton was an extraordinary woman, not only because she was the first woman to grace this Institution, but because of the impact she appears to have had on anyone who came into contact with her. As her husband, Professor William Ayrton, once said to her cousin, Dr. Philip Hartog, "you and I are able people, but Hertha is a genius."

She was born in 1854 as Sarah Marks, the third child of a Polish Jewish watchmaker. Her father died in 1861, leaving Sarah's mother with seven children and an eighth expected. Sarah certainly took on some of the responsibility for caring for the younger children, one that she never relinquished in the case of her younger sister, Lavinia, but her mother, Alice Marks, was a very strong woman. In spite of the temptation to keep her daughter at home to help with the upbringing of the younger children, she was determined that the family's difficult circumstances were not going to stand in the way of Sarah's obvious intellectual capabilities. In 1863, Sarah's aunt, Marion Hartog, offered to take her to London, to be educated in the school she ran with her husband. Mrs Marks, holding the view that women needed more, not less, of an education than men as life was likely to be harder for them, allowed Sarah to go.

At the Hartogs' school, Sarah established her reputation both as a scholar and a fighter in the cause of justice, once going on hunger strike for two days when wrongly accused of some misdemeanour. It was this principle which later lead to her committed involvement with the suffrage movement. She was always keen to promote the idea of women's fitness to vote through her own achievements in a male-dominated field, but she was never shy of making herself prominent in the political arena. She took part in marches and demonstrations and opened her home to women released from jail after being on hunger-strike, including Mrs Pankhurst.

At the age of sixteen, she became self-sufficient, working as a governess, but she still had a desire for her own education. An introduction to Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon in 1873 led to her applying to Girton College, of which Madame Bodichon was one of the founders. It was through Madame Bodichon that she first became friends with the novelist, George Eliot, who was also a keen supporter of education for women. A letter from Eliot in 1875 shows that she had taken a personal interest in Hertha's efforts to raise the necessary funds to take up her place at Girton: I have written to one lady, who I know will help us if she can. But I think I must give up the attempt to interest anyone else until I have the opportunity of personal intercourse with our friends.

At the time that Eliot met Hertha, she was working on Daniel Deronda, in which one of the major characters is a young Jewish girl with a distinctive voice and a talent for singing. Eliot was already interested in Jewish history and had conceived the character of Mirah before she made the acquaintance of Hertha Marks, but it is also undeniable that Mirah shares many physical and personal characteristics with Hertha: the dark, curly hair, the distinctive voice on which Eliot had commented when speaking to Hertha and of course, their Jewishness.

At college Hertha was renowned for the mental agility which led her to seek out practical applications to any problem and while still a student she invented a device for recording pulse beats - and a line divider. As in later life, however, intellectual endeavours never occupied her to the exclusion of other interests. She was responsible for the founding of the college Fire Brigade and was a prominent member of the Choral Society. She also seems to have played a most significant part in college life, with one fellow student describing her as "always the most striking figure among the students." Her result in her final exam, however, did not reflect her ability; she was placed fifteenth in the Third Class. She wrote to Madame Bodichon afterwards, expressing her sorrow at having failed so badly. "I think it is very hard on you after all you have done for me, that I should do no better. It is not for want of work, nor even entirely of brains, but rather a want of memory and still more presence of mind in the exam. room. So I have turned out a failure."

After leaving college, she returned to teaching as a means of supporting herself, but continued her own education at the same time, attending classes at the Finsbury Technical College. Her lecturer was Professor William Ayrton, who became President of the IEE in 1892.

William AyrtonHe and Hertha were married in 1885. For some time after their marriage, domestic responsibilities took up much of Hertha's energies; she was never particularly physically strong and had already had to defer her studies at Girton because of poor health. She did however keep up some of her own work and in 1888, gave a series of lectures for women on electricity. When Barbara Bodichon died in 1891, the legacy she left to Hertha enabled her to employ a housekeeper and give her attention more fully to the challenges of scientific research.

At this time, Professor Ayrton was engaged in research into the electric arc, but when a paper he was due to present was accidentally destroyed, Hertha took over the project while the professor turned his attention to other matters. Always supportive of his wife's endeavours, Ayrton was scrupulous about not collaborating with her as he knew that any joint work would undoubtedly be credited to himself by the world at large. So Hertha turned her attention to the sometimes eccentric behaviour of the arc. In 1895 she published a series of articles in The Electrician on the subject and in March 1899, was the first woman to present a paper to the IEE. She was elected to full membership of the Institution two months later.
Hertha and the Electric Arc

The arc lamp, widely used at this time for lighting in streets and public buildings, could be problematic because of its tendency to hiss, with the result that the light produced was apt to be inconstant. Hertha's experiments explained that the hissing and the accompanying change in appearance of the arc were caused when oxygen came into contact with the crater formed in the carbon. This happened when the crater was too large to occupy only the end of the positive carbon and extended up the side, thus coming into direct contact with the air and causing it to burn rather than to volatilise. Hertha proved through careful experiment that if air was excluded from the arc, the hissing did not occur. Neither did it occur when nitrogen or other component parts of air were introduced in isolation. She demonstrated that if the arc could be protected from direct contact with air, the hissing and the subsequent reduction in performance of the lamp could be prevented.

Hertha's experiments with the electric arc
Hertha and the Scientific Establishment

The IEE appears to have distinguished itself by the purely professional interest they took in Hertha's work, tending to support her own view that it was the merit of the research which mattered, not the gender of the scientist, but other institutions were not so welcoming. In 1902 she was proposed as a Fellow of the Royal Society, causing consternation. Her candidature was supported by some notable men of science, but when the council of the Royal Society met to discuss the issue, it was decreed as follows:

We are of the opinion that married women are not eligible as Fellows of the Royal Society. Whether the Charters admit of the election of unmarried women appears to us to be very doubtful.

Nevertheless, Hertha read a paper at the Royal Society in 1904, describing her new work on ripple movements in sand and water. She remains the only woman to have been awarded the Hughes medal, which she received in 1906 for her work on the arc and on sand ripples. Over the next few years she continued her experiments on ripples, constantly refining them to answer the criticisms of her results. At the outbreak of the Great War, she began to apply the theories she had developed about oscillations in water to the movement of air. With her habitual practical turn of mind, this was quickly put to use in the invention of the Ayrton Flapper Fan. She encountered some difficulty in getting the military to consider her idea, but her invention was eventually adopted and used to clear the trenches of poisonous gas. After the war, she continued with her work in this field until her death in 1923. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


Ayrton [nee Marks], (Phoebe) Sarah [Hertha] (1854-1923),
electrical engineer and suffragist, was born Phoebe Sarah
Marks on 28 April 1854 at 6 Queen Street, Portsea, near
Portsmouth, third child of Alice Theresa (d. 1898), seam-
stress, daughter of Joseph Moss, glass merchant of Port-
sea, and Levi Marks (d. 1861), watchmaker and jeweller of
Petworth, Sussex. Levi Marks, whose father was a Polish
innkeeper, came to England to escape pogroms; he died as
his impoverished family, with six boys, was expecting
another child. When Sarah was nine her aunts Marion
Hartog and Belle Leo, who ran a school in north-west Lon-
don with Alphonse Hartog, invited her to live with them
to be educated with her cousins. Her mother generously
agreed. Sarah learned languages and music in this tal-
ented family; her cousin Marcus introduced her to sci-
ence, and Numa (the first Jewish senior wrangler) to math-
ematics. Sarah and her family mostly became agnostic,
though proud of their Jewish heritage. At sixteen she
began teaching in London to support her mother. With
Ottilie Blind, who called her Hertha after Swinburne (and
the earth goddess Erda), she took the Cambridge Univer-
sity (local) examination for women. She was encouraged
by her friends and patrons Barbara Bodichon, artist,
women's activist, and co-founder of the new Girton Col-
lege for women, and George Eliot. Marquis (Marky), as
they called Sarah, with her curly black hair and grey-green
eyes, was an exemplar for Mirah, heroine of Daniel
Deronda, as Barbara Bodichon was for Romola.
Hertha read mathematics at Cambridge from 1877 to
1881, coached by Richard Glazebrook. While at Girton she
constructed a sphygmomanometer (pulse recorder), led
the choral society, founded the fire brigade, and with
Charlotte Scott, Girtton's first wrangler, formed a math-
ematical club. She published problems and solutions in
Mathematical Questions from the Educational Times for almost
two decades. After her return to London she earned
money by teaching and embroidery. She ran a club for
working girls and cared for her invalid sister. She invented
a line divider, which was sold under her patent. In 1884
she went to Will Ayrton's evening classes in electricity at
Finsbury Technical College.
Hertha and William Edward •Ayrton (1847-1908) were
married in 1885 and their daughter, Barbara, was born in
1886. Will Ayrton was an electrical engineer and
co-founder of the City and Guilds Institute. His first wife,
his cousin Matilda Chaplin (1846-1883), was a pioneer
woman doctor, with his encouragement; their daughter
Edith, who married Israel Zangwill, wrote novels as Edith
Ayrton Zangwill; the Zangwills' son, Oliver, was professor
of experimental psychology at Cambridge.
Hertha Ayrton lectured to women on electricity and its
domestic potentialities. She took over Ayrton's experi-
ments on the electric arc at South Kensington while he
was at the Chicago Electrical Congress in 1893. She traced
the hissing, sputtering, and instability to oxidation of the
positive carbon. Excluding air, she obtained a steady arc
and demonstrated a linear relationship between arc
length, pressure, and potential difference, the Ayrton
equation. Observing the image on a screen, she showed
that cratering, as the carbon evaporates, determines the
potential for a given current and arc length, and improved
efficiency by reshaping the electrodes.
Her analysis and technical advances, described in
twelve papers in The Electrician (1895-6), established her
reputation, unique for a woman. She demonstrated her
experiments at the Royal Society's Conversazione in 1899
and spoke on "The hissing of the electric arc' at the Institu-
tion of Electrical Engineers. The institution elected her
MIEE, the only woman member until 1958. Her lecture
"L'intensite lumineuse de 1'arc a courants continus' at the
International Electrical Congress in Paris in 1900 helped
Marcus Hartog persuade the British Association to allow
women on to their committees. John Perry gave her paper
on "The mechanism of the electric arc' at the Royal Society
in 1901. Her book The Electric Arc (1902), which became a
standard work, included the history from Davy's discov-
ery in 1800 (and a dedication to Barbara Bodichon). She
later patented anti-aircraft searchlights, developed for the
Admiralty, and arc lamp technology.
From 1901, when Will Ayrton was convalescing at the
seaside in Margate, Kent, she studied the formation of
sand ripples and sand bars by wave motions of the water,
conducting experiments in the landlady's zinc bath, with
soap dishes and baking tins. Back home, in her attic, she
produced stationary waves of different wavelengths by
rocking glass vessels 4 to 44 inches wide, using perman-
ganate, paint, or metal powder to show eddies and vorti-
ces. She reported her work to the Royal Society in 1904 (in
person), in 1908, and 1911, and to the British Association
and the Physical Society. The mathematical description
gave difficulty: it is now known to involve complicated vis-
cous effects and (chaotic) turbulence. After Will Ayrton
died in 1908 she moved her laboratory down to the draw-
ing room, as shown in the photograph 'Mrs Ayrton in her
Laboratory' (Appleyard, 167-8). Her interest in vortices in
water and air inspired the Ayrton fan, or flapper, used in
the trenches in the First World War to dispel poison gas.
She fought for its acceptance and organized its produc-
tion, over 100,000 being used on the western front.
In 1902 John Perry, with distinguished co-signatories,
proposed her candidature for the Royal Society, but law-
yers pronounced that a married woman, having no stand-
ing in law, was ineligible. Such arguments were quashed
by the Sex Disqualification Removal Act (1919), but no
woman was proposed again until 1944. In 1906, however,
she was awarded the society's Hughes medal for her work
on the electric arc and on sand ripples. In 1998 she
remained the only female recipient of this medal,
awarded annually for original discovery in the physical
sciences. Armstrong's obituary in Nature exemplifies the
opposition to such work by a woman, and elicited a
rebuttal.
Hertha Ayrton, despite recurrent ill health, supported
by her extended family, was a stalwart of the women's
movement. She chaired the physical science section of
the International Congress of Women in London in 1899,
and encouraged women in applied science. She supported
the militant suffragists, as did her friend Marie Curie, who
brought her daughters for summer holidays with her in
1912 and 1913. Hertha marched in all the suffrage proces-
sions: in 1911, with 800 women graduates in academic
dress (which Cambridge women could not wear until
1948), she was in the science section. In 1912-13 Mrs Pank-
hurst and others recovering from hunger strike were
nursed in Hertha's home, returning to prison when they
recovered, under the 'Cat and Mouse Act' (the Prisoners'
Temporary Discharge Act of 1913). Hertha was "very
proud' when her daughter Barbara Bodichon Ayrton
*Gould (1886-1950) went to prison in 1912. Barbara
became Labour member of parliament for Hendon North
in 1945; her husband, Gerald Gould (d. 1936), was a poet
and journalist; their son was the artist Michael 'Ayrton
(1921-1975).
Hertha Ayrton helped found the International Feder-
ation of University Women in 1919 and the National
Union of Scientific Workers in 1920. She died of blood poi-
soning (resulting from an insect bite) on 26 August 1923 at
New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. JOAN MASON


Sources DNB • E. Sharp, Hertha Ayrton, 1854-1923: a memoir (1926) •
K. T. Butler and H. I. McMorran, eds., Girton College register, 1869-1946
(1948), 8-9 • J. Mason, 'Hertha Ayrton and the admission of women
to the Royal Society of London', Notes and Records of the Royal Society,
45 (1991), 201-20 • Early days of the electrical industry, and other reminis-
cences of Alexander P. Trotter (1948), 125-9 • R. Appleyard, The history
of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, 1871-1931 (1939). 167-8 • A. P.
Trotter, 'Mrs. Ayrton's work on the electric arc'. Nature, 113 (1924),
48-9 • H. Armstrong, Nature, 112 (1923), 800-01 • T. Mather, Nature,
112 (1923), 939 [rebuttal of Armstrong's obit.] • private information
(2004) • b. cert. • d. cert.
Archives Museum of Jewish Life. Golders Green, London, Stein-
berg Centre, Edith Chaplin Ayrton diaries
Likenesses H. Darmesteter, portrait, Girton Cam. • photograph,
repro. in Sharp, Hertha Ayrton, frontispiece • photograph, repro. in
Appleyard, History of the Institution of Electrical Engineers • photo-
graphs, Girton Cam.
Wealth at death £8160 8s. 6d.: probate, 19 Oct 1923, CGPIAEng. &
Wales


Facts
  • 28 APR 1854 - Birth - ; Portsea, at 6, Queen Street, her mother's old home, over her father's business premises. She was third child.
  • 26 AUG 1923 - Death - ; New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. Cremation at Golders Green
  • 1863 - Fact -
  • BET 1863 AND 1870 - Fact -
  • 1870 - Fact -
  • BET 1870 AND 1875 - Fact -
  • 1873 - Fact -
  • 1874 - Fact -
  • BET 1875 AND 1876 - Fact -
  • OCT 1876 - Fact -
  • BET 1878 AND 1880 - Fact -
  • BET 1880 AND 1883 - Fact -
  • OCT 1882 - Fact -
  • FEB 1884 - Fact 14 -
  • 27 SEP 1884 - Fact 15 -
  • 1888 - Fact 16 -
  • 1891 - Fact 17 -
  • 1893 - Fact 18 -
  • 23 MAR 1899 - Fact 19 -
  • JUN 1899 - Fact 20 -
  • AUG 1900 - Fact 21 -
  • 20 JUN 1901 - Fact 22 -
  • SEP 1901 - Fact 23 -
  • 1902 - Publications - ; The Electric Arc - and many papers to the British Association, Royal Society, Institution of Electrical Engineers and ot
  • BET 1902 AND 1904 - Fact 24 -
  • BET 1903 AND 1910 - Fact 30 -
  • 16 JUN 1904 - Fact 25 -
  • NOV 1906 - Fact 26 -
  • BET 1906 AND 1909 - Fact 27 -
  • 28 JUN 1907 - Fact 28 -
  • MAR 1908 - Fact 29 -
  • 18 NOV 1910 - Fact 31 -
  • 26 JAN 1911 - Fact 32 -
  • MAY 1911 - Fact 33 -
  • MAR 1912 - Fact 34 -
  • BET 1912 AND 1914 - Fact 35 -
  • AUG 1912 - Fact 36 -
Ancestors
   
?
 
 
Levi Marks
ABT 1817 - 1861
  
  
  
?
 
Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks
28 APR 1854 - 26 AUG 1923
  
 
  
 
   
  
  
 
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Levi Marks
BirthABT 1817Poland
Death1861
Marriage23 NOV 1851to Alice Theresa Moss at Portsmouth synagogue
Father?
Mother?
PARENT (F) Alice Theresa Moss
Birth
DeathJUL 1898 St Leonards-on-Sea, with Hertha, after a painful illness
Marriage23 NOV 1851to Levi Marks at Portsmouth synagogue
Marriageto Gerald Gould
FatherJoseph Moss
MotherAmelia
CHILDREN
FLavinia Marks
BirthABT JAN 1862
DeathOCT 1891
MAbe Marks
BirthABT 1861
Death
FPhoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks
Birth28 APR 1854Portsea, at 6, Queen Street, her mother's old home, over her father's business premises. She was third child.
Death26 AUG 1923New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. Cremation at Golders Green
Marriage6 MAY 1885to William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. at Mr and Mrs Hancock's house in Queen's Gate
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S.
Birth14 SEP 1847London (see obituary)
Death6 NOV 1908 41, Norfolk Square, Hyde Park, London, England
Marriage21 DEC 1871to Matilda Charlotte Chaplin , M.D. at Saint Matthew, Bayswater, Kensington.
Marriage6 MAY 1885to Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks at Mr and Mrs Hancock's house in Queen's Gate
FatherEdward Nugent Ayrton
MotherEmma Sophie Althof
PARENT (F) Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks
Birth28 APR 1854Portsea, at 6, Queen Street, her mother's old home, over her father's business premises. She was third child.
Death26 AUG 1923 New Cottage, North Lancing, Sussex. Cremation at Golders Green
Marriage6 MAY 1885to William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. at Mr and Mrs Hancock's house in Queen's Gate
FatherLevi Marks
MotherAlice Theresa Moss
CHILDREN
FBarbara Bodichon Ayrton
Birth3 APR 188625 Hornton Street, Kensington, London
DeathOCT 1950London
MarriageJUL 1910to Gerald Gould
Evidence
[S12758] Ann Gregory (Mendell)'s copy of 'A short account of the Families of Chaplin and Skinner........' with annotations by Ayrton Chaplin & others
[S28950] Hertha Ayrton 1854-1923: A Memoir by Evelyn Sharp. Edward Arnold & Co, 1926
Descendancy Chart
Phoebe Sarah (Hertha) Marks b: 28 APR 1854 d: 26 AUG 1923
William Edward Ayrton , F.R.S. F.R.S. b: 14 SEP 1847 d: 6 NOV 1908
Barbara Bodichon Ayrton b: 3 APR 1886 d: OCT 1950
Gerald Gould b: 1885 d: 1936
Michael Ayrton b: 20 FEB 1921 d: 17 NOV 1975