Thelma Estrin Oral History

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Thelma Estrin Oral History


Thelma Estrin originally intended to become an accountant but became interested in engineering after taking a three-month training course at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1943 and working as a machinist at the Radio Receptor Company. When her husband returned from from the Second World War they both enrolled in undergraduate programs in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. By 1951 Estrin had completed her doctorate.

Estrin was a pioneer in the application of engineering and computer electronics to medicine and established the first integrated electronics and computer laboratory for neuroscientists. She developed an interest in biomedical engineering in 1951 while working as a research assistant at the Electroencephalography Department at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital Neurological Institute. In 1955 the Estrins settled in Los Angeles, where Thelma Estrin taught engineering courses at Valley College. She joined the the Brain Research Institute in 1960 and was named the director of its Data Processing Laboratory ten years later. Beginning in 1982 Estrin was appointed to a two-year term as the Director of Electrical, Computer and Systems Engineering at the National Science Foundation. In 1980 Estrin returned to the classroom as a professor in residence at the UCLA Computer Science Department, from from which she retired in 1991.

Estrin is a Fellow of the Society of Women Engineers and received the SWE Achievement Award in 1981 for her contributions to biomedical engineering. She is a IEEE Fellow and was the first woman to serve on the IEEE Board of Directors. She also served as President of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

Oral History Item


Deborah Rice


Estrin, Thelma

Date Recorded





“Thelma Estrin Oral History,” Michigan Oral History Database, accessed June 13, 2024,

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