Rose A. Carney, PhD

Rose A. Carney, PhD

Physics and Mathematics


Rose A. Carney: 1920-2007
Emerita – Physics and Mathematics

  • Worked on the Manhattan Project
  • Prominent professor of physics and mathematics also helped break barriers at Benedictine University

Born in Chicago, Dr. Carney was raised on the South Side and graduated from Visitation High School in 1938. She received a bachelor’s degree in physics from DePaul University and a PhD in physics from Illinois Institute of Technology, where she was a National Science Foundation faculty fellow.

Rose A. Carney was a graduate student of physics in her 20s when she began a year-long stint as a research assistant at the University of Chicago, working on the Manhattan Project.

Those close to her say she was part of a team that developed technical instrumentation, and was on hand that historic day, December 2, 1942, when sustained nuclear reaction was observed in the university’s testing labs.

After working as a research assistant at the University of Chicago, Dr. Carney taught physics and mathematics at DePaul, and later became an assistant professor of physics and mathematics at St. Xavier College in Chicago.

In 1948, Dr. Carney began a 2-year tenure at St. Procopius College in Lisle, becoming the first layperson to serve as a full-time professor of physics and mathematics. She served as head of the mathematics department for 21 years and chairman of the natural sciences division for 11 years, prior to her retirement in 1990.

“Rose broke a lot of ground at St. Procopius, being one of the college’s first female physics professors and the first layperson to serve on its faculty,” said former student Ralph Meeker, and now a professor emeritus of computer science at Benedictine University. “Before that, the faculty had been completely staffed by Benedictine monks and members of other religious orders.”

“She was an extraordinary teacher, certainly demanding, but always very engaging and approachable,” Meeker said. “The key to her success was that she could take average students and make them better.”

During her summers while teaching, Dr. Carney also worked as a research associate at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont and was an active member of Women and Mathematics.

“She always looked for opportunities to encourage female students in mathematics and the sciences,” Meeker said, “She, more than most, understood the obstacles facing women in those fields.”

Dr. Carney was 86 when she passed away from congestive heart failure on Wednesday, February 21, 2007.