Eleanor Livingston

Eleanor Livingston

1920 - 2018

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Obituary of Eleanor Livingston

Eleanor Mulford Livingston of Boulder, CO and Rhinebeck, NY, born March 15, 1920 in New York City, died in her home in Boulder February 19, 2018.  Daughter of the late Henry H. Livingston and Mary Eleanor Curran Livingston, she grew up in New York City and Livingston, NY.  She attended the Chapin School in Manhattan and Vassar College, graduating with a B.A. in American History in 1941.


Although quietly self-effacing by nature, Eleanor proved to be a courageously determined pioneer on several fronts.  She followed her two brothers into WW II, proud to serve at the rank of Captain, Women’s Army Corps, and as Commanding Officer of a special women’s unit tasked with intercepting German submarine communication from Bermuda. 


After the war, she sought to pursue her advanced education and career in the fields that fascinated her, but which at the time were only marginally open to women. In spite of her pre-med studies at Montana State University and excellent academic credentials, she was unable to gain acceptance to medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.


Determined to make a life in the sciences, she landed a job in 1952 with General Electric Co. in Schenectady, NY, which led to a stint at GE’s Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Dept. and eventually to the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, ID in 1961 operated by GE.  Around this time she also began to collect degrees at the University of Wyoming:  B.S. in Medical Technology (1965); B.S. in Electrical Engineering (1966) and M.S. in Electrical Engineering/Bioengineering option (1969).  She recalled that she was the only woman in her electrical engineering class and in the work environment later in that field.


In addition to her four degrees, she obtained a number of certifications, including “Nuclear Reactor Operator.”  In her work, she carried multi-year security clearance from the US Atomic Energy Commission.


Starting in 1981 she worked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, CO providing technical support for research on electromagnetic properties of materials at high frequencies.  She retired in 1991 at the age of 71. In retirement she continued to take courses in biochemistry and electrical engineering at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus.

Her career and academic pursuits as a scientist were at the cutting edge of research and technology in electrical engineering, bioengineering and nuclear physics, a combination that gave her special insights across multiple disciplines.  At the time of her death she was putting finishing touches on her last paper -- a treatise on how the human cell can serve as a model for a modern fuel cell.


Eleanor was a true renaissance woman, a life long learner with deep and diverse interests not only in the sciences, but also in history, music, fashion and English literature.  At the age of 42 she decided to take up ballet, achieving a level of proficiency equal to or better than those half her age.  


She was a gripping storyteller with an exceptional memory for detail and a unique and poetic way with words.  She was passionate about her Hudson Valley roots and was a storehouse of family history.  She was forever the interested educator and mentor to family and friends, young and old.  


Eleanor will be remembered for her wry sense of humor and readiness for fun; her gentle demeanor and stoicism in the face of adversity; her keen, inquisitive mind and her love of the world which she enjoyed sharing with people of all ages and walks of life.


Eleanor is survived by sisters-in-law Maria B. Livingston of New York and Janet Livingston of South Dakota; six nieces and nephews – Laura, John, Isabel, Henry and Richard Livingston and Catharine Tyler; sixteen grandnieces and nephews; and seven great grandnieces and nephews. She was pre-deceased by her brothers Herman Livingston and Henry H. Livingston.

A private family memorial service is planned for the summer of 2018 in Hudson NY.