Thelma Estrin
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February 21, 1924 - February 15, 2014 Dr. Thelma Estrin, a trailblazer in bio-medical engineering and a role model for all women in science, UCLA Professor Emerita, and a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, died on Saturday February 15th in her home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89. Thelma Austern was born in New York City, where she met and married her beloved Gerald (Jerry) Estrin, Ph.D. in 1941. They had been married for 70 years when Jerry passed away in March, 2012. After training as an engineering assistant at the Stevens Institute of Technology and working at Radio Receptor Company during WWII, Thelma studied electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin where she earned her B.S, M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1948, 1949 and 1951. She held a research position in the Electroencephalography Department of the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, thus beginning her career in bio-medical engineering. In 1954, Thelma and Jerry traveled to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, where they worked on the development of WEIZAC, the first large-scale electronic computer outside of the United States or Western Europe. In 1955, they returned to Los Angeles and in 1961 Thelma inaugurated the UCLA Brain Research Institute's Data Processing Laboratory - one of the first interdisciplinary laboratories dedicated to creating and applying computing to neurological research. She served as director of the laboratory from 1970 until 1980 when she became a full professor at UCLA's School of Engineering and Applied Science. In the late 1970's, Thelma was the first woman to join the board of trustees of the Aerospace Corporation. She took a two-year leave from UCLA in 1982 to serve as the director of the National Science Foundation's division of Electrical, Computing and System Engineering. She also served as director of UCLA's Engineering Science Extension. In 1991, Thelma retired and became a Professor Emerita. Thelma was a Fellow of the IEEE, the Society of Women Engineers, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a founding Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, and a recipient of numerous awards including the Pioneer in Computing Award from the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing and induction into the WITI hall of fame. She loved to travel and was happiest when engaged in interesting conversation with Jerry, other family members and friends. Throughout her career and into retirement, she was actively involved in promoting women's careers in engineering and science and served as a role model for girls and women throughout the world. She will always be remembered for her passion, directness, and drive to challenge the status quo. Thelma is survived and will be greatly missed by her three daughters, Margo (Marnin), Judy, and Deborah (Ache), four grandchildren, Rachel, Joshua, Leah, and David, as well as an extended family of colleagues and friends.

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Published in Los Angeles Times from Feb. 21 to Feb. 23, 2014.
Memories & Condolences
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8 entries
February 15, 2021
Thelma was a great friend and mentor fifty years ago. A true legend. I cannot say it enough.
Bob Sclabassi
February 26, 2014
I was saddened to hear of Dr. Estrin's passing. She inspired me to go into Computer Science and (much later) bioinformatics. I still have fond memories of my years at DPL under her leadership. She will be missed by all of us who were fortune enough to know her.
Rich Johnston
February 26, 2014
Thelma was a brilliant role model, mentor and a great friend. Always a generous person, she gave me the encouragement and guidance to pursue my dreams and evolve the quality of my being. The ten years that I served under Thelma at the DPL were among the best years of my life. She will always be remembered for her courage, strength, generosity and kindness. I am grateful that she touched my life and feel blessed that I had the privilege of knowing her. My heartfelt condolences go out to her family.
John Hull
February 26, 2014
I regarded Jerry and Thelma as computer science royalty, a perfectly matched couple with keen intellect and a manor suited to mentoring all of us students. I consider myself lucky to have know them for 40 years at UCLA. I particularly will miss them both at UCLA basketball games and other campus events that I often ran into them, delightfully. Condolences to the daughters and family.
Jeff Drobman
February 25, 2014
Dr. Estrin was a very special lady who cared about people. My husband and I were employees in 1971 and she took the time to give us a wedding shower at her house. I shall always be grateful to the kindness shown by her family.
Wendy Perga
February 23, 2014
Thelma was great. I enjoyed being her employee at DPL and owe my education and career to her.
richard buchness
February 21, 2014
Thelma was a true mentor early in my career at the DPL and was a true friend,

Bob Sclabassi
February 21, 2014
Thelma was very helpful to me early in my career, and I will always remember her for her kindness and support. Our condolences to the family.
Ron and Becky Harper
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