Dr. Edith M. Flanigen

Top Female Professional of the Decade

Dr. Flanigen’s interest in chemistry was sparked in high school. Following that interest to D’Youville College, Dr. Flanigen would graduate valedictorian and class president before moving on to Syracuse University for further study. After obtaining her M.S in inorganic physical chemistry in 1952, Dr. Flanigen would join the staff at Union Carbide identifying, purifying, and extracting different silicone polymers. She quickly moved from that postion into a group working on molecular sieves. In 1973, Dr. Flanigen would become the first woman at Union Carbide to be a corporate research fellow, becoming a senior corporate research fellow in 1986. Dr. Flanigen would join UOP, a joint venture between Allied Signal and Union Carbide, where she would be a senior research fellow. Dr. Flanigen would retire from UOP in 1994, but remained active with them until 2004.

During her tenure with Union Carbine, Dr. Flanigen invented over 200 different substances, most notably zeolite Y, a molecular sieve that refined petroleum, and a form of emerald used mainly in masers and, for a period, in jewelry. Dr. Flanigen has also been published numerous times and has over 100 patents in her name. She has been recognized by the field on multiple occasions, including the Chemical Pioneer Award from the American Institute, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and being the first female recipient of the Perkin Medal. Dr. Flanigen was also honored by President Barack Obama in 2012 when she was presented with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. She is also the namesake of the Edith Flanigen Award, an annual award given by the Collaborative Research Centre at Humboldt University of Berlin to female scientists who are just starting their careers.