Born in Germany, I was the daughter of a father who was a traveling journalist and a mother who worked for a family construction business that prompted my fascination with the art of construction.
My father accepted a new position writing for a Hanover newspaper, but the day he was to begin, WWI started, and he was sent to occupied Belgium...and due to this loss of income, I tutored students in math and Latin in order to support our family...and continued to do so when my father returned in poor health.
After graduating from an all-girls high school, I enrolled in the male-dominated Technical University in Hanover to study applied mathematics...and found myself the only woman in many of her classes.
Eventually, I became a Doktor-Ingenieur, with a thesis on the mathematical theory of heat conduction in circular cylinders, while also filling a full-time job as a teaching assistant for practical mathematics and descriptive geometry.
Though few females were offered a chance to be an engineer, I received two offers and chose to work at Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt in Gottingen, where half of my time involved clerical work and the other half was research.
Working with the leading German aerodynamicist Ludwig Prandlt, I used my math background to help him solve a tough integro-differential equation for "his lifting line theory for the spanwise lift distribution of an airplane wing" and even helped develop a relatively convenient method for its practical use...leading to my promotion to head the aerodynamics group.
When I married my husband, a civil engineer, his company Deutche Versuchsanstalt fur Luftfahrt offered me a consultant position that let me focus throughout WWII on the mathematics of automatic control theory, developing the theory of on-off control systems.
When WWII ended, both my husband and I joined the newly established ONERA (French National Office for Aeronautical Research) in Paris, where I headed the research group in aerodynamics and focused on problems arising from the increased speed of aircrafts.
Then it was off to Stanford University, but since my husband was offered a professorship, nepotism only allowed me to serve as a part-time lecturer in engineering mechanics....a minor set-back as I eventually created and taught a year-sequence of graduate courses in mathematical hydro/aerodynamics.
Soon I was publishing research and guiding graduate student dissertations in fluid-mechanics, numerical methods and automatic controls, so that Stanford was basically forced to acknowledge my work and named me a full professor (first female!) in engineering mechanics, aeronautics and astronautics.
Later, I was awarded an Achievement Award by the Society of Women Engineers, became the first woman elected as a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and was the first woman selected to give the prestigious von Karman Lecture.
Even after I retired, I continued to research ideas in satellite control, heat transfer, and drag of high-speed vehicles....leading to a career total of publishing more than 50 technical papers.
My epitat: I lived a "life which would never be boring."
Irmgard Flügge-Lotz (1903 - 1974)