Isabel Hardwich

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Isabel Helen Hardwich (née Cox, 19 September 1919 – 1987) was an electrical engineer and photometry expert, Fellow and President of the Women's Engineering Society. She was born in Streatham, London, in 1919[1] and died in 1987.[2]


Hardwich attended Furzedown Primary School and Streatham Secondary School (both London County Council schools).[3] She was accepted into Newnham College, Cambridge to read for the Natural sciences Tripos, where she specialised in Physics.[3]

Upon leaving Cambridge, Hardwich joined Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd. in Manchester in 1941,[2] initially completing a two-year college-apprenticeship course in engineering.[3]


After completion of her apprenticeship, Hardwich worked in the Research Department, becoming one of the original members of the Metropolitan-Vickers Electron Microscope team.[3] After a year and a half of working on this project she shifted her focus and began building a photometric laboratory, however this was badly damaged in a fire.[3] She subsequently worked on a setting up a Hilger large ultra-violet spectrometer, then designing an X-ray Geiger counter spectrometer.[3] Like most of the staff, Hardwich lectured part-time at UMIST and RCAT, Salford.[2]

In 1960 she was given responsibility for the employment and training of 'technical' women within the company's research department.[2] Throughout her career, Isabel Hardwich campaigned tirelessly to educate, recruit and support young women into the industry as professional engineers.[2]

Hardwich became a member of the Illuminating Engineering Society in 1947 and joined the I.E.S Manchester Centre Committee in 1948, serving on both the Education and Papers sub-committees.[3] She was elected an associate member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1950.[3]

Hardwich was strongly involved in the Women's Engineering Society.[4] She joined in 1941 and helped to set up its Manchester branch the year after, alongside her great friend motor engineer Elsie Eleanor Verity. She was elected to hold the office of vice-chairman of the Manchester Branch of the for the session 1946–1947.[5] She subsequently served as chairman for the session 1947–1948.[6] As chairman, Hardwich gave the first talk organised by the Manchester Branch in that year, a chairman's address entitled "Lighten Our Darkness", introducing the theory of relativity.[6] She later went on to serve as the president of the Women's Engineering Society from 1961 to 1962.[7]

She was also elected a fellow of the Society of Women Engineers.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Isabel married John Norman Hardwich in 1945, who at the time was working as an engineer in the High Voltage Research Laboratory Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company Ltd.[3] He was an associate and also a keen supporter of the Women's Engineering Society, and he shared the burdens of running the home to allow Isabel to continue working at Metropolitan-Vickers.[3]


Hardwich's archive is held at the Institution of Engineering and Technology.[4] The Women's Engineering Society has awarded the Isabel Hardwich medal, named in her honour, since 1987. This is given to a member who has made an outstanding and sustained contribution to the Society over a number of years and gone above and beyond the call of duty.[9] Past recipients include:[10]

  • 2019 - Petra Gratton
  • 2018 – Dr Nina Baker
  • 2017 – Milada Williams and Linda Maynard
  • 2016 – Dawn Fitt and Jackie Longworth
  • 2015 – Dr Carol Marsh and Anne Wiseman
  • 2014 – Alexandra Walker
  • 2013 – Grazyna Whapshott
  • 2012 – Dr Jan Peters
  • 2010 – Pam Wain and Betty McCarthy
  • 2007 – Dorothy Hatfield
  • 2005 – Connie Shirley
  • 2004 – Michael Sanderson, retired chief executive of SEMTA
  • 2003 – Sue Bird and Nicole Rockliff

[Temporary cessation of the award]


  1. ^ "Birth and death records". Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jackson, Veronica (2016). "Part Three: Isabel Hardwich: A WES stalwart at Metrovicks". Metropolitan Vickers: Arthur Fleming’s Influence on the Origins and Evolution of Apprentice Training and Technical Education, with particular reference to Female College and Student Apprentices between 1945–1967 (PDF) (Thesis). Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "The Woman Engineer". Journal of the Women's Engineering Society (Incorporated 1920). VII. No. 2: Page 14. Summer 1951. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Hardwich, Isabel Helen (1919–1987) Honorary Secretary of the Women's Engineering Society and Research Physicist". The National Archives. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  5. ^ "The Woman Engineer". Journal of the Women's Engineering Society (Incorporated 1920). VI. No. 7. Summer 1946. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  6. ^ a b "The Woman Engineer". Journal of the Women's Engineering Society (Incorporated 1920). VI. No. 12. Summer 1948. Archived from the original on 10 May 2019. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Presidents Past & Present | Women's Engineering Society". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  8. ^ "SWE Celebrates International Women's Day".
  9. ^ "Isabel Hardwich Medal: Women's Engineering Society". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Isabel Hardwich Medal | Women's Engineering Society". Retrieved 18 May 2019.