Two decades before Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan broke through racial and sexual bias to make history at NASA in the 1960s—a feat celebrated in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures—there was Beatrice Shilling.
Shilling, known as Tilly to her friends, was a remarkably gifted British engineer who in 1936 was recruited to serve as a scientific officer in the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), a position she held until her retirement in 1969. Shilling’s decision to join the RAE had a lasting effect not only on her life but also may have saved the lives of pilots and soldiers in World War II.
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During the early days of the war, British pilots would correct for this "fluff" by rolling upside down and diving inverted. Since the Bf-109 used fuel injection and could dive straight-away, this allowed a lot of German pilots time to escape.
Legend has it that Beatrice wouldn't marry her husband-to-be, George Naylor, until he matched her achievement and secured a Gold Star by lapping Brooklands on a motorcycle at over 100mph. It took him a while, but he made it and they eventually married in September 1938...