Updated 17-XI-2018

Mary Andrews

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

Mary Andrews

Mary Andrews was a native of Delhi, Ohio and was born on 11 January 1884. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She first worked in the GE Research Laboratory during the period 1906-1908. That was the time period when the GEM carbon filament incandescent lamp reigned as king; squirted tungsten filaments were just coming into the marketplace and W. D. Coolidge had yet to develop ductile tungsten. That was also the time when the Research Laboratory was in its infancy. It was about that time Mary R(uggles) met William C. Andrews and was married. The Andrews moved to New Jersey where Mr. Andrews worked as a report writer for Thomas A. Edison. Mary Andrews did not return to GE until 1918. During those intervening years the Andrews' wanted to raise a family and two daughters were born to them. Unfortunately William C. Andrews passed away when one of the daughters, later to become Mrs. Willem F. Westendorp (Mary Andrews Westendorp; b 11 Sep 1909, d 23 Jul 1996) of the Schenectady area, was just six years of age (ca 1903).

After the death of her husband Mary Andrews moved to the Bronx, a borough of New York City, and from 1916 to 1918 worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. At that time Dr. J. Loeb, a renowned physiologist and superb experimental biologist, headed the Division of Experimental Biology. Mrs. Andrews worked with Loeb for a period of time but then decided to return to GE in Schenectady.

At the Research laboratory in Schenectady Mrs. Andrews' general areas of expertise included: X-ray analysis of alloys, formation of tungsten carbide and the electron emission therefrom, getters, and absorption of gases by the metals tungsten and tantalum.

Patents issued to Mrs. Andrews were for an electric incandescent lamp using carbides of refractory metals. Tantalum carbide was re-examined as a possible filament material again in the 1960s at NELA Park. Until recently it continued to be researched as an enticing candidate for an incandescent filament material owing to the possibility to operate it at considerably higher temperatures than tungsten, to attain a higher efficacy and whiter light. However, a tremendous challenge is presented to maintain its structural stability. It was still a challenge in the 2000s, so it has to be concluded that Mrs. Andrews had tackled a very complex problem when she chose that particular material. A tantalum carbide lamp has never, to this writer's knowledge, been marketed; however, that is not to say that it won't be someday.

Mrs. Andrews was a coworker of Saul Dushman and together they co-authored many scientific articles. Much of the work performed in that time period (1920s and early 1930s) was related to other lamp work, such as that performed by Irving Langmuir. Some of their work certainly must be considered as the first steps away from the traditonal empirical studies usually performed with incandescent lamps, towards a more scientific methodology.

Mary Andrews passed away in the latter part of 1934 at age 50.

  1. US 2,019,331 - Electric Incandescent Lamp
  2. US 2,072,788 - Tantalum Carbide Lamp