Pearl I. Young

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Pearl I. Young

Birth:  1895

Death:   1968

Specialty: Physics

Major Contributions:

First female technical employee of the NACA

Chief Technical Editor, NACA’s Langley Instrument Research Laboratory

Wrote biography of aviation pioneer Octave Chanute

Image: NASA

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree as a triple major in physics, chemistry, and mathematics, Pearl I. Young would become a trailblazer for women working at Langley Research Center and at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

Hired to work as a physicist at Langley in 1922, her first assignment was in the Instrument Research Division. A few years later she noted how the new inexperienced engineers at the center had trouble with technical writing. She suggested the Langley needed a technical editor and she was appointed to the task. After establishing an office and hiring staff she became responsible for the research reports and official documents that shared the accomplishments taking place at the center. 

The publication procedures set by Young met with some resistance from the engineers and clients, but she was able to successfully argue that the quality of the finished product was more important than the speed of publication. In 1943 she wrote NACA’s Style Manual for Engineering Authors, which set the style for publications at Langley and other research centers.

In that same year she left Langley, moving to work at NACA’s new Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, which would later become the NASA Lewis Research Center. Four years later she left NACA to be an assistant professor of engineering physics at Pennsylvania State University but returned to the center in 1958-the same year NACA was incorporated into NASA.

She retired from NASA in 1961 and returned to teaching physics, this time for a year at Fresno State in California. Turning her attentions then to writing about aviation pioneers including Octave Chanute, she compiled her findings into various articles and pamphlets and presented lectures on his life at technical meetings.

Young spent close to thirty years at NACA and NASA and helped to define its public image. She had a great influence on the way the United States government’s aeronautical engineers communicated their findings through publication. The Pearl I. Young Theater at NASA Langley was established in her honor and her papers on Chanute and other aeronautics experimenters can be found in the archives at the Denver Public Library.

Written by Angela Goad


NASA: Pearl I. Young

Women’s History Month Shout Out: Pearl I. Young

Wikipedia: Pearl I. Young

See Also:

Denver Library: Pearl Young’s Research Papers on Octave Chanute

UND Aerospace Pearl I. Young Scholarship