Forgotten Women in STEM: Judith Love Cohen

Judith Love Cohen in the ’50s

Judith Love Cohen was born in 1933 into a Jewish family in Brooklyn. She had always been passionate about math and apparently by fifth grade she was payed by her classmates to do their math homework.

When she was 19, she was studying engineering in college and dancing ballet in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in New York.

She married young and moved to California, where she worked as a junior engineer for North American Avation, while attending the University of Southern California (USC) at night. In 1957 she received her Bachelor’s degree and in 1962 her Master’s degree by USC Viterbi School of Engineering, without ever meeting another female engineering student.

She started working at Space Technologies Laboratories in 1957 and work there until her retirement in 1990.

Her engineering work included work on the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile and the Abort-Guidance System (AGS) in the Apollo Lunar Module. 

28 August 1969 she was working on the Apollo 13 project, when labor began. She took the documents regarding the AGS to the delivery room and was enlightened to solve the problem as soon as her son was born. The AGS played an important role in the safe return of Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank explosion left the Service Module crippled and forced the astronauts to use the Lunar Module as a “lifeboat.”

After retirement, frustrated with the lack of female role models for girls interested in science, math, and technology (STEM), she published a 11-book series “You Can Be a Woman…” featuring female professionals such as a paleontologist, Egyptologist and marine biologist.  In 2014 she was awarded with the IEEE-USA Distinguished Literary Contributions Award – for her work with STEM for children.

Two of the books Judith Love Cohen wrote

Ah, the son of this story is Jack Black. She had three other children and three marriages in total. And yet, she kept her surname and worked as an engineer her whole life.

Did you know her and her story?


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