Holyoke College, who in 1978 was the first woman elected president of the American Chemical Society. She did this on her third try (having run against Nobelist Glenn Seaborg in her first attempt and a black chemist, Henry Hill, in her second). It had taken over a hundred years (the society was established in 1876) for this “first,” although women had been members from the start, or nearly so, and had been heads of sections since Icie Macy Hoobler chaired the Detroit section in 1930.3 Yet until the mid-1970s there had not been a woman president. Since then there have been others.

By 1978 Harrison was finishing her term on the National Science Board, to which she had been appointed by Richard Nixon in 1972. In the 1980s, she was the fourth woman president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the first woman chemist). Thus she was one of the very few women scientists of the 1970s and 1980s to play much of a role in the whole enterprise that is called “science policy.” She even ran a meeting on international science at Mount Holyoke (a women's college) in the mid-1980s.4

Besides Harrison, and in a sense following in her footsteps, was and is Mary Good (1931- ), who has worked in all three sectors of academia, industry, and government. She was both a member and chair of the National Science Board (a possible first for womankind) and was president of the American Chemical Society in 1987. Recently she stepped down as undersecretary in the Commerce Department. She is also rare in having held presidential appointments from three U.S. presidents—Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.5 Coming along behind her would be Marye Anne Fox, who served in the 1990s in what may be a seat for Southern women on the National Science Board and who is now, after many years at the University of Texas, the chancellor of North Carolina State University.6 So by now—the year 2000—there have been a few women chemists in top and highly visible and responsible places in the United States.

An internationally renowned achievement for women was the winning of the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1988 by Gertrude Elion of Glaxo Wellcome in North Carolina.7 No woman chemist had done this since biochemist Gerty T. Cori, who shared the physiology Nobel with her husband and Bernardo Houssay in 1947. (Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1911, her daughter Irene shared it with her husband in 1935, and Englishwoman Dorothy Hodgkin won it in


For starters, try Jane Miller, “Women in Chemistry,” in G. Kass-Simon and Patricia Farnes, eds., Women of Science, Righting the Record (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990), pp. 300-334, and Maureen M. Julian, “Women in Crystallography,” ibid., pp. 335-383; Louise S. Grinstein, Rose K. Rose, and Miriam H. Rafailovich, eds., Women in Chemistry and Physics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993); and Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, eds., Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997).


On women in the American Chemical Society, see Margaret W. Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (1982) (hereinafter WSA, vol. 1), pp. 78-79, and Margaret W. Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Before Affirmative Action, 1940-1972 (1995) (hereinafter WSA, vol. 2), pp. 305, 306-307, 309, 310, and 421n5. The ACS has also employed women, p. 472n43. See also the delightful autobiography of Icie Gertrude Macy Hoobler, Boundless Horizons: Portrait of a Pioneer Woman Scientist (Smithtown, NY: Exposition Press, 1982).


Carole B. Shmurak, “Anna Jane Harrison (1912- ), Chemist,” in Shearer and Shearer, pp. 172-176; also, obituary in Boston Globe, August 12, 1998; “UN Panel Hits Technology's Impact on Women,” Chemical & Engineering News (hereafter C&EN) 61(September 26, 1983), p. 7; and Shirley M. Malcom et al., eds., Science, Technology and Women: A World Perspective, AAAS Publication 85-14 (Washington, DC: AAAS, 1985). Harrison's papers are at Mount Holyoke College. On Mount Holyoke and other alma maters of women chemists, see Alfred E. Hall, “Baccalaureate Origins of Doctorate Recipients in Chemistry, 1920-1980,” Journal of Chemical Education 62 (1985), pp. 406-408.


Ellen Horn Stanley, “Mary Lowe Good (1931- ), Chemist,” in Shearer and Shearer, pp. 148-153; and American Men and Women of Science (hereafter AMWS), 19th ed. (1995-96), vol. 3, p. 266.


Fox in AMWS, 19th ed. (1995-96), vol. 2, p. 1409.


Marilyn McKinley Parrish, “Gertrude Belle Elion (1918- ), Biochemist,” in Shearer and Shearer, pp. 84-88; and Richard Kent and Brian Huber, “Obituary, Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-99), Pioneer of Drug Discovery, ” Nature 398 (April 1, 1999), p. 380.

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