Biography of Elizabeth MacGill

Essay by PardeepkHigh School, 11th gradeB, February 2010

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Elizabeth MacGill was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 27, 1905. She had lived until November 4, 1980 where she died in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had obtained a degree of electrical engineering from the University of Toronto and started working for the Austin Automobile Company that was in Pontiac, Michigan. The company then decided to do aircraft production, which in turn made Elizabeth MacGill obtain an aeronautical engineering masters degree from the University of Michigan. Sadly, in 1929, she was afflicted with a disease known as polio and was told she would never walk again. With the help of two canes, however she was able to move around again. She became the chief engineer for Canada Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario in 1983 where she designed the Maple Leaf II, which pilots used to practice. Later on when World War II was to begin, Elizabeth MacGill directed the creation of the Hawker Hurricane airplanes in Canada while also designing modifications to equip the planes for the cold weather.

She supervised 4500 workers that by the end of the war had produced 1450 planes. She became a symbol of economic change and a comic book called “Queen of the Hurricanes” was written about her in 1942. She then later started a consulting firm that specialized in aeronautical engineering in Toronto. Later in 1946, Elizabeth MacGill came to be the first female to become the Technical Advisor to the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization. In this position, she wrote the International Air Worthiness guidelines and protocol for the design and development of commercial aircraft. In addition, she was appointed to the Royal Commission on the status of women in 1967, as she was an activist in women’s rights. She has a with a masters degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan (1929) (

Elizabeth MacGill contributed to physics within her aeronautical engineering on the Hawker Hurricane planes. This relates to the unit in physics titled forces and motion, which includes vector forces such as the force of gravity. An airplane can fly due to the creation of lift, and lift occurs when the air speeds up causing it to have lower pressure, this is explained in Bernoulli’s principle. Lift also requires power, which can be found by dividing the work by time ( ), this is also a concept of energy and motion. For Elizabeth MacGill to design aircraft she would have had to known these various physics concepts to apply them. Newton’s laws also play a key factor as they state the law of inertia, the relationship between acceleration and mass ( ), and for every action there is an equal and opposite effect. When she designed modifications for the planes, such as ski’s and de-icing controls, she would have had to incorporate her knowledge and understanding of physics into her projects. Elizabeth MacGill’s contribution towards physics in her aeronautical engineering has proven to be notable as it set the base foundations for future engineering.