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Trailblazer in STEM: Beatrice Shilling

"If you don't like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time."- Beatrice Shilling


Beatrice Shilling was born on March 8, 1909, in Waterloo Ville, Hampshire, England. From a young age, she showed a keen interest in mechanics and engineering. As a child, she was fascinated by motorcycles and engines.

Shilling attended Furnham Grammar School, where she excelled in science and mathematics. After completing her secondary education, she worked as an apprentice for an electrical engineering company, gaining practical experience in the field.

In 1932, she earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Manchester. She was one of only two women in her class. Following her undergraduate studies, she went on to complete a master's degree in mechanical engineering in 1933.

During her time at university, Shilling developed her passion for motorsports, particularly motorcycling. She owned and maintained her own motorcycles, often modifying them to improve their performance.


  • Designed "Miss Shilling's orifice," a critical fix for Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in WWII fighter planes

  • Worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, contributing to various aeronautical research projects

  • Accomplished motorcycle racer, earning a Gold Star for lapping Brookland's circuit at over 100 mph

  • Awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1947 for her wartime contributions

  • Received a doctorate in Engineering from the University of Surrey in 1969

  • Royal Aeronautical Society established the Beatrice Shilling Medal in her honor

  • Inducted into the Women's Engineering Society's list of "100 Remarkable Women Engineers

  • Featured on a Royal Mail stamp in 2019 as part of a set honoring British engineering pioneers


The work Beatrice Shillings did contributed to a lot of changes in aviation technology and engineering practice. Beatrice Shilling's genius solution to the problem caused by the Merlin engine during World War II improved fighter plane performance and underlined practical problem-solving in the art of engineering. Her contribution defined the role of women in aeronautical engineering and set the stage for increased diversity. The way she approached an engineering challenge still forms a case study, evoking admiration for a simple and effective solution. Indeed, she is still remembered, through the institution of various awards and memorials in her name, such as that of the Royal Aeronautical Societyᅳthe Beatrice Shilling Medalᅳwhich continues to inspire engineers in the future.


“Beatrice Shilling - Revolutionising the Spitfire.” Kenley Revival,

Negative Gravity: A Life of Beatrice Shilling. Accessed 10 July 2024.


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