J. Virginia Lincoln 1932
J. Virginia Lincoln 1932

Miss Lincoln’s career in physics started by chance.  While a senior at Dana, she decided to take a physics course instead of American history.  She enjoyed the course so much that she took physics as her freshman science at Wellesley College and later decided to major in physics.  After graduating from Wellesley College, she received a M.S. degree from Iowa State College in applied physics.

Due to World War II, physicists were in great demand.  Miss Lincoln, at the suggestion of a Wellesley professor, studied at Harvard in an accelerated radio program.  In September 1943, she accepted a position at the National Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C.  In 1954, the headquarters were moved to Boulder, CO and Miss Lincoln became an enthusiastic Westerner.

Miss Lincoln had the thrill of being the only woman in the official United States delegation of fifty scientists to attend the 1958 meeting of the International Geophysical Year in Moscow. She noted that in contrast there were many women in the Russian delegation. In 1959, she became the Deputy Chief of the Radio Warning Services of the Central Radio Propagation Laboratory, the first woman to head a section in a federal bureau.  Her area of expertise was in forecasting solar phenomena that affected radio communication.

As the director of the World Data Center for Solar Terrestrial Physics and the Solar Terrestrial Physics Division Chief for NOAA’s National Geophysical and Solar Terrestrial Data Center, Miss Lincoln created a statistical method for predicting sunspots that is still used today to forecast solar storms.  Solar storms can disrupt radio communications on Earth.  She worked at the Data Center from 1966 until her retirement in 1980.  After her retirement, Miss Lincoln was involved with the Boulder Historical Museum, traveled extensively, and played golf.

In 1973, Miss Lincoln received the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal for Distinguished Service.  In 2000, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.  She was past chair of the Denver Section of the Society of Women Engineers and was active in encouraging girls to study math and science.

In 1998 Miss Lincoln visited Dana Hall and was extremely interested in the Shipley Science Center.  She was passionate about encouraging women to consider a career in the field of physics and was pleased to see the wonderful science facilities available to Dana Hall students.

 Buttenheim, Maureen. “Re: alums.” Message to Pam Kaplan. 30 January 2006. E-mail.
 Lincoln, J. Virginia’32. “Sunspots and the IGY.” Dana Hall Bulletin 20.4 (November 1958): 10-11. Print.
  “Former NOAA Employee to be Inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.” NOAA News Releases 2000. NOAA, 2000. Web. 30 January 2006.<http://www.publicaffairs.noaa./ov/releases2000/feb00/noaa00r303.html>.
“Obituaries – Virginia Lincoln.” IAGA News. 41 (November 2004). International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, 2004. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. <http://www.iugg.org/IAGA/iaga_pages/pdf/Newsletters/IAGA_News_41_Nov2004.pdf>.
Pam Kaplan
March 2012

Dana Women in Science Display