Dr. Alice Hamilton (1869-1970)

Bronté Gerber

Mini Biography

  • Born in New York City
  • Got degree at the University of Michigan's Medical School
  • Lived at the Hull House in Chicago, Illinois and tried to identify causes of typhoid and tuberculosis in the surrounding area
  • Her areas of expertise were bacteriology and toxicology
  • Was a member of the League of Nations Health Committee
  • Her first textbook Industrial Hygiene in the United States was published in 1925
  • A second textbook called Industrial Toxicology was published in 1934

What was her occupation?

  • Pathologist and bacteriologist
  • First woman to work on Harvard University's staff (worked in Harvard Medical School's Department of Industrial Medicine as an assistant professor)
  • Pathology professor at the Woman's Medical School at Northwestern University (didn't last long)
  • Investigator for the United States Bureau of Labor
  • Medical consultant to the United States Division of Labor Standards

Contributions to Modern Study, Understanding, and/or Management of the Environment

  • With her research in industrial medicine and hygiene, as well as her research in lead poisoning, she made factories safer for workers during the Industrial Revolution
  • Brought about health reforms, changing laws and general practice so the health of workers could be improved
  • Led to nationwide improvisation of safety standards in factories and mines

Where does she fit into our study of Environmental Science?

Hamilton worked in toxicology and with factories and mines helping regulate harmful substances, such as lead. Without her work, lead poisoning could have affected many more people and somehow found its way into water sources, affecting even more citizens nationwide.


1. At what university was she the first female staff member and what was her job?

2. How old was Hamilton when she died?

3. Do you think the United States would have all the safety revisions for factory workers we do today if Hamilton's works had not been taken seriously since she was a female? Why or why not?

4. What are the names of the textbooks she's published?

5. What fields did she work in and why were they important?