white lineEllen Richards has been called the most prominent American woman chemist of the 19th century.  She graduated from Vassar in astronomy and chemistry, later got a master’s degree in chemistry from there and then became the first woman graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). However, she was denied a doctorate because she was a woman.At MIT, she taught women students chemical analysis, mineralogy, and applied biology (without pay) and then when the Institute started a laboratory for sanitary engineering, she taught sanitary chemistry.  On behalf of the State of Massachusetts, she conducted a groundbreaking survey of water quality of inland bodies of water in the state and later co-wrote an important textbook on sanitary engineering.

Richards sought to apply scientific principles to home economics, a field of study she helped started.  Richards set up model kitchens, organized conferences, and served as the first president of the American Home Economics Association in 1908.