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Blodgett, Katharine Burr (10 January 1898–12 October 1979), chemist and inventor, was born in Schenectady, New York, the daughter of George Bedington Blodgett, a patent attorney for the General Electric Company, and Katharine Buchanan Burr. Her father was murdered a few weeks before her birth, a crime never solved. She grew up in reasonably comfortable circumstances in New York City, where her mother worked in child care. She attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating in 1917 with an A.B. and majoring in physics. She then undertook graduate study in chemistry at the University of Chicago, obtaining the M.S. degree in 1918....

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Bodley, Rachel Littler (07 December 1831–15 June 1888), botanist, chemist, and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Anthony Prichard Bodley, a carpenter and patternmaker, and Rebecca Wilson Talbott, a teacher. An 1849 graduate in classical studies of Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, Rachel Bodley taught there and served as preceptor in higher college studies until 1860, when she decided to pursue her interests in botany and chemistry. She began advanced studies in the natural sciences at the Polytechnic College in Philadelphia in 1860 and returned to Ohio in early 1862 to accept a position as professor of natural sciences at the Cincinnati Female Seminary....

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Sally Gregory Kohlstedt

Carr, Emma Perry (23 July 1880–07 January 1972), chemist, was born in Holmesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edmund Cone, a general practitioner from a family of physicians, and Anna Mary Jack. Her family moved fifty miles south to the somewhat larger town of Coshocton about a year after Carr was born. She graduated from public schools and then went to Ohio State University in 1898, where she studied chemistry with William McPherson. At the end of her freshman year she transferred to Mount Holyoke College, becoming part of a tradition that supported women’s education in science and that, as a faculty member, she would sustain and expand....

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Dreyfus, Camille Edouard (11 November 1878–27 September 1956), industrial chemist and entrepreneur, was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of Abraham Dreyfus, a banker, and Henrietta Wahl. Camille and his younger brother, Henri (later Americanized to Henry), both received their education at the University of Basel, being awarded their Ph.D.s in chemistry in 1902 and 1905, respectively. Camille also pursued postgraduate study at the Sorbonne in Paris until 1906. After working several years in Basel to gain industrial experience, Camille and his brother established a chemical laboratory in their home town. Seeking a product that the public would readily buy, they developed a synthetic indigo. Although they made some money in this venture, it quickly became clear that synthetic indigo did not have a sufficient market. Consequently the Dreyfus brothers focused their attention on celluloid, which at that time was produced only in a flammable form. They recognized that a large potential market existed for nonflammable celluloid, if it could be developed. They focused on cellulose acetate and were shortly producing one to two tons per day. Half of their output went to the motion picture industry for film, with the other half going into the production of toilet articles....

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Hill, Mary Elliott (05 January 1907–12 February 1969), organic and analytical chemist, was born in South Mills, North Carolina, the daughter of Robert Elliott and Frances Bass. Little is known about the early part of her life, except that she lived with her parents and two brothers in modest circumstances. After completing elementary and secondary education, she enrolled in Virginia State College, where during her sophomore year, she married Carl McClellan Hill, who in addition to being an honor student at Hampton Institute was also class president and an All-America guard on the school football team. Over the course of their 41-year marriage the couple had three children....

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Pennington, Mary Engle (08 October 1872–27 December 1952), food-processing chemist, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the daughter of Henry Pennington and Sarah B. Molony. Soon after her birth the family moved to West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where her father set up a label-making business. Mary enjoyed gardening, which was a hobby of her father, and at the age of twelve she became interested in medical chemistry after reading a library book about it. Her parents were surprised but supportive. In 1890 she entered the Towne Scientific School of the University of Pennsylvania as a special student (because she was a woman). The school gave her a certificate of proficiency in 1892, when she completed the work for a B.S., but they refused her the degree, which was only offered to men. Under a university rule for “extraordinary cases,” Pennington was allowed to continue studying at the University of Pennsylvania for a Ph.D. in chemistry, which she received in 1895. She held a fellowship there in chemical botany for two years and then a fellowship in physiological chemistry at Yale University for another year....

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Richards, Ellen Henrietta Swallow (03 December 1842–30 March 1911), chemist and home economist, was born on a farm outside of Dunstable, Massachusetts, the only child of two schoolteachers, Peter Swallow and Fanny Gould Taylor. The family moved to nearby Westford so that Ellen could attend the coeducational Westford Academy. After graduation, she taught school briefly before returning home to nurse her ailing mother and work as a bookkeeper for her father, who had opened a general store. These years were marked by depression and despair. Richards was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia, which quickly subsided when her parents agreed to send her to the newly opened Vassar College for women....