The Death of the “Queen of Carbon”



The "Queen of Carbon", Millie Dresselhaus died on Monday, February 20.

Lizzie Quinlivan, Contributing Writer

On Monday, February 20th, engineer Mildred “Millie” Dresselhaus passed away. She was 86 years old. Although some may know about her outstanding accomplishments and innovations in the field of science, very few recognize the way in which she shaped the world.

This year, GE released a television commercial featuring Millie Dresselhaus, which was shown during major televised events including the Superbowl and the Oscars. In this commercial, GE proposed the question, “What if Millie Dresselhaus, an accomplished woman engineer, was famous?” Therefore, the commercial portrayed Millie Dresselhaus as a celebrity and concluded by stating that GE was on their way to employing 20,000 women in the engineering business. In response, freshman Alex Lannon said, “I saw the advertisement during the Oscars, and I was glad to know that many women are starting to get involved in the engineering business, a field in which men used to dominate.”

Millie Dresselhaus was born on November 11, 1930 in Brooklyn. She grew up in the Bronx, where the school systems were weak and did not graduate students with sufficient academic knowledge. For high school, though, she tested into Hunter College High School, and ahe took on rigorous classes where she was challenged, but she still succeeded. For college, Dresselhaus attended Hunter College, from where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree. After college, she got a master’s degree from Radcliffe College, spent a year studying at the University of Cambridge in England, got her doctorate degree in physics from the University of Chicago, and spent two years of post graduate work at Cornell University. In 1967, she became a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By 1968, she was the first official woman professor at MIT. She worked at MIT for 57 years up until her death last month.

As a physicist, Millie Dresselhaus’s career mostly included exploring carbon. She had some outstanding research, for which she won the National Medal of Science and Engineering. She was the first women to ever be awarded this medal. She also won the prestigious Kalvi Prize, which entitled her to a $1 million cash prize. In 2014, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Another one of her major accomplishments was being named the first female institute professor at MIT, a position which usually less than twelve people hold at a time.

Millie Dresselhaus passed away at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge due to a stroke she suffered while in the lab. Freshman Emily Bryant said that “her contributions to science changed the field forever, and her work helped the world.”