An Honor for the First American Woman to Earn a Degree in Civil Engineering

In 1905 Nora Stanton Blatch Barney graduated from Cornell University. She was the first woman in the United States to earn a degree in civil engineering. Barney worked as an engineer for the American Bridge Company and the New York Public Service Commission. She was instrumental in the construction of the reservoir and aqueduct systems in the Catskill Mountains that supply water to New York City. Barney became the first woman elected to the American Society of Civil Engineers. She was also a major proponent of women’s suffrage and equal rights.

Now, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection was decided to name its new tunnel-boring machine after Blarney. The machine will repair New York City’s Delaware Aqueduct – the world’s longest tunnel. The $30 million boring machine, dubbed “NORA,” is being touted as one of the world’s most advanced tunnel excavators. It stretches 470 feet and features a rotating cutter head that is nearly 22 feet in diameter. As the machine excavates, it will pump away up to 2,500 gallons of water per minute while also partially lining the tunnel with 9,000-pound concrete segments. NORA will be used to bore a 2.5-mile bypass tunnel for a leaking section of the aging Delaware Aqueduct. The bypass tunnel will then be connected to the existing aqueduct and the leaking section will be taken out of service. The entire repair project is expected to take about eight years to complete.

“Cornell Engineering has been producing amazing female engineers since our beginning,” said Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering. “It is therefore fitting that the tunnel-boring machine for the Delaware Aqueduct be named after Nora Stanton Blatch Barney, as it represents her courage and her can-do attitude at a time when women had not been given access to those roles.”

Filed Under: Awards


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