Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #121

Margaret Ingels was born on October 25, 1892 in Paris, Kentucky.  She came to the University of Kentucky hoping to study architecture but there was no degree granting program on the campus during that time.  Dean F. Paul Anderson persuaded her instead to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering and in 1916, Margaret Ingels became the first woman at UK to earn a Bachelor’s of Mechanical Engineering. Upon graduation, she accepted a position in the engineering department of the Chicago Telephone Company. After a brief term of employment, she joined the Carrier Lyle Heating and Ventilation Corporation, New Jersey. She left Carrier to return to the University of Kentucky in order to finish a Master’s degree in engineering, graduating in 1920, again as the first woman. Ingels was the second woman engineering graduate in the United States and the first woman to receive a professional degree of Mechanical Engineer.
At the forge, circa 1916

After graduation, Margaret Ingels was asked to work at the United States Bureau of Mines at the Pittsburgh Laboratory. Dr. F. Paul Anderson, Dean of the University of Kentucky Engineering School, was the director of the lab. In 1921, he asked Ms. Ingels to work with other members of the American Society of Heating and Ventilating Engineers. Her assignment included field tests for the New York Commission on School Ventilation, 1927. It was during this time that she perfected a new portable machine that determined the amount of germ-laden dust in schoolrooms and public places. Returning to Carrier in 1931, Ms. Ingels helped perfect the sling psychrometer, which is used to read the relative humidity of the air. She worked in several departments including public relations until her retirement in 1953. After her retirement, she lived in Lexington, Kentucky, and authored a book about a colleague, Willis Haviland Carrier: Father of Air Conditioning.

Because of her achievements, both educational and occupational, Margaret Ingels was chosen, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, as a recipient of the 1940 Women's Centennial Congress. She was also awarded an honorary law degree in 1957 by the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky College of Engineering inducted Margaret Ingels into its 1993 Hall of Distinction.  A University of Kentucky alumnus and a pioneer in the air conditioning industry, Margaret Ingels passed away in Lexington, Kentucky on December 13, 1971. 

Graduation, 1916.

In 2005, a new dormitory, named Ingels Hall, opened as a living-learning community that included specialized programming for a cluster of female engineering students living in the Women in Engineering Wing.  The Margaret Ingels papers and photographs are preserved at the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections.

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