Innovative thinking seemed to be a part of National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductee Evelyn Berezin’s life since childhood.
As an avid reader, she first connected with her interest in science and technology when reading copies of her older brother’s Astounding Science Fiction magazines. It wasn’t until she entered high school and began taking college classes at 16, however, that the possibility of a future working in science became a reality.
A Brilliant Go-Getter
Berezin was the daughter of immigrant parents and grew up in a working-class family in the Bronx, New York. She consistently earned top grades in school and was even offered a job as a lab technician when she began college. Berezin recalled a professor offering her the position immediately after the attacks on Pearl Harbor took place, saying that many of the young men who worked these jobs would soon be drafted for the war. She accepted the offer, managing to work full-time during the day and take classes at night. Between studying on the subway and during her lunch hour, she managed to graduate from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1945.
From 1951-69, Berezin worked at several computer startup companies, learning logic design and other systems. While working at Teleregister Corp. from 1957-60, she leveraged the recent developments that had been made in transistor and computer technology to create an entirely new system. Berezin designed an early passenger reservations system for United Airlines that was said to be the largest interconnected electronic data processing system built for business use at the time. The system was built with three independent, linked processors and served 60 cities throughout the United States with a one-second response time.
Looking to further advance in her career, Berezin knew that she would have to break from the corporate male-dominated companies she was used to working for. In 1969, she co-founded Redactron Corp. and her team began working on an improved word processor. Redactron’s final product was known as the “Data Secretary” and featured a custom 13 IC MOS chip set, one of the first-ever systems implemented.
The Data Secretary was one of the first electronic word processors aimed at simplifying secretarial work, and its introduction to the business and technology industries offered new opportunities for women to grow in the workplace. To promote the Data Secretary, Berezin took out an ad in Ms. Magazine in 1971. The ad was titled “Death of the Dead-End Secretary” and included Berezin’s personal contact information to provide “Free the Secretary” buttons and stickers.
In 1976, Berezin was named one of the Top 100 Businesswomen in the United States by Business Week magazine – the only woman to be featured as the president of a technology company. Redactron was sold later that year, having grown from a startup with less than 10 people to a company that employed just under 500. Berezin’s leadership continued as she began working in venture capitalism and sat on the boards of many public companies. She was also a committed philanthropist and along with her husband gave generously to Stony Brook University.
Berezin’s commitment to learning and continually improving her skillset were clear catalysts of her success. Not only did she create new technology systems for the world around her, but she also helped provide women with a newly empowered vision for what they could achieve.
“The most marvelous part of running your own business is that you can decide what you want to do and then try to do it,” she said. “You just have to have a sense of direction.”
Evelyn Berezin will be celebrated as one of our newest Inductees at the 48th Annual NIHF Induction Ceremony. Look for more blogs introducing our inspiring 2020 Inductees at invent.org.