Theresa "Terry" Marie Korn (née McLaughlin, November 5, 1926 – April 9, 2020) was an American engineer, radio enthusiast, and airplane pilot, the first woman to earn an engineering degree from what is now Carnegie Mellon University. She was the author of multiple books on engineering and mathematics.
A fictionalized version of Korn is one of the characters in the novel Kay Everett Calls CQ by Amelia Lobsenz (Vanguard Press, 1951), describing a girls' summer road trip adventure in the 1940s with ham radio and flying components.
Theresa McLaughlin was born in St. Louis, Missouri on November 5, 1926, the daughter of a civil engineer. When she was one year old, a storm damaged her family home, breaking her nose, and the family moved to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where she grew up. As a high school student, she became a ham radio operator in 1941, and flew Atlantic reconnaissance patrols as an airplane pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, becoming the youngest pilot and radio operator in the country. She became a member of the Ninety-Nines society of female pilots, and graduated as the valedictorian of Greensburg High School in 1943, winning the Bausch and Lomb Science Award and a Carnegie Scholarship to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which later became Carnegie Mellon University.
Since its founding in 1903, the Carnegie Institute had admitted women as students, but only through its Margaret Morrison Carnegie College for women, not through its engineering school, and her scholarship was to this college, through which McLaughlin could take engineering classes but would be barred from earning an engineering degree. By refusing her scholarship and instead accepting money from her pilot friends to pay for her tuition, McLaughlin was able to gain admission to the engineering school instead of to the women's college, becoming the first female student at the school. While studying, she earned a radio license and began working for WHGB, a local radio station, but quit over being paid less than the station's male employees, and took another job working on the electrical systems of arcade games. Despite opposition to teaching her from some male faculty members, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1947, and was nominated for membership in Eta Kappa Nu, the international honor society of the IEEE. The society refused her nomination because she was a woman, instead giving her a certificate as the best student in her class.
She became a junior engineer for Curtiss-Wright, working in the restricted research section on missile development. In 1948 she married Granino Arthur Korn, a German-born physicist, the son of physicist and inventor Arthur Korn. Granino was head of analysis at Curtiss-Wright, and because of the anti-nepotism rules then in place at Curtiss-Wright, this marriage caused her to lose her position there. A few years later, they both moved to Boeing in Seattle and she returned to work, on airplane engineering. The Korns co-founded an engineering consulting company in 1952, and Theresa Korn earned a master's degree in 1954 from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1957, her husband became a professor of computer and electrical engineering at the University of Arizona, while Theresa Korn managed the consulting business and became active in Tucson society. After Granino Korn retired in 1983, the Korns moved to Wenatchee, Washington. Granino died on December 17, 2013, and Theresa Korn died from COVID-19 on April 9, 2020, in Wenatchee during the COVID-19 pandemic in Washington (state).
Korn was the author of: