Remembering Themla Estrin, trailblazer in biomedical engineering


Themla Estrin was a great role model for all women in STEM fields. Her obituary in the LA Times reflects all the wonderful contributions that she made to biomedical engineering, computer science, and more.

February 21, 1924 – February 15, 2014 Dr. Thelma Estrin, a trailblazer in bio-medical engineering and a role model for all women in science, UCLA Professor Emerita, and a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, died on Saturday February 15th in her home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89. Thelma Austern was born in New York City, where she met and married her beloved Gerald (Jerry) Estrin, Ph.D. in 1941. They had been married for 70 years when Jerry passed away in March, 2012. After training as an engineering assistant at the Stevens Institute of Technology and working at Radio Receptor Company during WWII, Thelma studied electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin where she earned her B.S, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1948, 1949 and 1951. She held a research position in the Electroencephalography Department of the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, thus beginning her career in bio-medical engineering. In 1954, Thelma and Jerry traveled to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where they worked on the development of WEIZAC, the first large-scale electronic computer outside of the United States or Western Europe. In 1955, they returned to Los Angeles and in 1961 Thelma inaugurated the UCLA Brain Research Institute’s Data Processing Laboratory – one of the first interdisciplinary laboratories dedicated to creating and applying computing to neurological research. She served as director of the laboratory from 1970 until 1980 when she became a full professor at UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. In the late 1970’s, Thelma was the first woman to join the board of trustees of the Aerospace Corporation. She took a two-year leave from UCLA in 1982 to serve as the director of the National Science Foundation’s division of Electrical, Computing and System Engineering. She also served as director of UCLA’s Engineering Science Extension. In 1991, Thelma retired and became a Professor Emerita. Thelma was a Fellow of the IEEE, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a founding Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a recipient of numerous awards including the Pioneer in Computing Award from the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing and induction into the WITI hall of fame. She loved to travel and was happiest when engaged in interesting conversation with Jerry, other family members and friends. Throughout her career and into retirement, she was actively involved in promoting women’s careers in engineering and science and served as a role model for girls and women throughout the world. She will always be remembered for her passion, directness, and drive to challenge the status quo. Thelma is survived and will be greatly missed by her three daughters, Margo (Marnin), Judy, and Deborah (Ache), four grandchildren, Rachel, Joshua, Leah, and David, as well as an extended family of colleagues and friends.

Read more.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.