Black History Month
Since February is Black History Month I thought I would honor a few important people. I can’t imagine the courage that Rosa Parks possessed to climb onto that bus. Or The determination of Harriet Tubman delivering people to freedom. I would hope that I would have that same strength in the face of inhumane laws. To bravely put myself on the front line to make a statement on a bus or to guide people to freedom. But this is not about me.
We recognize, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, are among so many important people that we should never forget. However, I want to discuss Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916), an African-American Chemist.
Trailblazing Black Woman
A chaulmoogra tree was planted on the campus of the University of Hawaii (then College of Hawaii) in honor of Alice Ball. The tree was planted in 1935 in honor of Ball’s groundbreaking research on leprosy (Hansen’s disease). Alice was the first woman AND first African-American student to receive a master’s degree in science (chemistry) in 1915
Alice Augusta Ball was born on July 24, 1892, in Seattle, Washington and was one of four children. Since Alice’s father was a newspaper editor, a photographer, and a lawyer her family was considered middle-upper class. She graduated from Seattle High School in 1910. Studying at University of Washington, she earned two bachelor’s degrees, one in pharmacy and one in pharmaceutical chemistry.
She also co-authored a 10-page article in the Journal of the American Chemical Society titled “Benzoylations in Ether Solution.” An extremely rare accomplishment for women, and even more rare for African-American women at that time.
Leprosy Treatment – The Ball Method
Alice was offered many scholarships after college graduation and moved to Hawaii to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry. At age of 23, she developed a technique which allowed the oil from chaulmoogra tree seeds to be injected and absorbed by the body. This technique, was then named as the “Ball Method.”
Alice Augusta Ball died on December 31, 1916, at the age of 24. She became ill during her research and returned to Seattle for treatment a few months before her death. A 1917 newspaper article suggested that the cause might have been chlorine poisoning due to exposure that occurred while teaching a laboratory.
Alice Ball’s work directly affected 8000 people that were diagnosed with leprosy in Hawaii that were taken out of their homes and exiled. Because of her research patients were able to be treated in their own homes. Alice Augusta Ball – a true American hero!
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