Ellen Swallow Richards

Learn about this fantastic woman

Little Bio of Ellen:

Ellen is the founder of home economics and was the first woman to be admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. She was born December 3, 1842 in Dunstable, Massachusetts. She died March 30, 1911 in Boston, Massachusetts. Her grave is in Gardiner, Maine.

Contributions to Science:

The most prominent female American chemist of the 19th century, Ellen H. Swallow Richards (1842-1911) was a pioneer in sanitary engineering and a founder of home economics in the United States.

In 1875 she married Professor Robert H. Richards, head of the department of mining engineering at MIT. She started working with her husband on the chemistry or ore analysis and this work led to her being elected in 1879 the first woman member of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers. In 1876 she successfully petitioned the Woman’s Education Association of Boston to contribute funds to open the Woman’s Laboratory at MIT. She worked there as an assistant director under Professor John Ordway. She encouraged other woman to enter the scientific field and provided opportunities for their training.

Pictures of Ellen

Two experiments from Ellen

The Rumford Kitchen

The Rumford Kitchen: The intention of the exhibit was to illustrate the present state of knowledge in regard to the composition of materials for human food, the means of making these materials most available for nutrition, and the quantity of each necessary for a working ration. It was also in part intended as a centennial celebration of the services to humanity of a man of Massachusetts birth and parentage, Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford of Bavaria, the first to apply the term "science of nutrition" to the study of human food, and the first to apply science to the preparation of food materials.

Lawrence Experiment Station

Thomas M. Drown was in charge of the famous Lawrence Experiment Station laboratory conducting the water sampling, testing, and analysis. There he put to work the environmental chemist and first female graduate of MIT, Ellen Swallow Richards. This research created the famous “normal chlorine” map of Massachusetts that was the first of its kind and was the template for others. As a result, Massachusetts established the first water-quality standards in America, and the first modern sewage treatment plant was created.”