Ellen 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.
- Wikipedia biography
- Distinguished Women of Past and Present
- American Society of Civil Engineers
- blog about Richards and the Home Economics movement
- List of Richards’ publications from Harvard University
- Richards’ papers at Smith College
- The Life of Ellen Richards by Caroline Hunt (Whitcomb and Barrows, Boston, 1912) (full-text)
- Air, water and food from a sanitary standpoint by Richards and AG Woodman (1900) full text
- The cost of food: a study in dietaries by Richards (1901) full text