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Ellen Richards

RICHARDS, Ellen Henrietta, née Swallow, American chemist, ecologist and home economist, 1842-1911. The first woman teacher of sanitation chemistry, at MIT from 1884-1911. Her skills in analysis of metals in water and sewage are reflected in her being the first woman member of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (1879). Ellen discovered the use of naphtha as a dry cleaning agent. She examined drinking water and sewage, to establish safety standards. Then she constructed tables for the normal chlorinating treatment suitable for early detection of fresh water pollution. By 1897 the State was able to take over this responsibility. Ellen produced the first water purity tables and quality standards, and Massachusetts was the first State to be working towards set standards of water and sewage quality. In 1885 the state passed the Pure Food & Drugs Act, stimulated by her  publication, ‘Food Minerals & their Adulterations’. In the home, she redesigned houses for optimum heating and ventilation. In collaboration with Atkinson, she redesigned the Aladdin Oven, which resulted in factories being less susceptible to fires. Ellen also introduced the use of carbon dioxide levels as a measure of efficiency of house ventilation. After 1890, she concentrated on home economics problems. Then in 1899 she created a school of housekeeping in Boston, which became the Home Economics Dept of Simmons College. A founder of the American Home Economics Association in 1908 and President of it until 1910. Ellen was also a founder member of the American Association of University Women, and was instrumental in establishing  the famous Woods Hole Marine Biological Labs. A pioneer of so many subjects.

Chemist Ecologist Inventor

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