Born in New York City on February 27, 1869, Alice Hamilton was a physician and a leading authority on lead poisoning and industrial diseases. Her work led to improved safety standards nationwide. Hamilton died in 1970. In tribute to her work, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health presents its annual Alice Hamilton Award for Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health in her name to scientists and engineers who excel in the field.
Early Life and Career
Alice Hamilton was born in New York City on February 27, 1869. A pioneer in industrial toxicology and a nonconformist who valued personal liberty above all else, Hamilton became a leading American authority on lead poisoning and one of the handful of worldwide specialists on industrial diseases by 1916. Her reports on lead, and later on rubber and munitions, led to improved safety standards nationwide.
The daughter of a successful grocer, Alice Hamilton chose medicine as a career as a means to be both independent and socially useful. Her sister, Edith Hamilton, chose a different path, becoming a well-known classics scholar and author. Alice spent more than a decade as a resident of Chicago's famous settlement house, Hull House. She developed her friendship with reformer Jane Addams there, and also began to combine her scientific research skills with her latent reformist zeal.
Investigator for U.S. Bureau of Labor
Focusing on industrial diseases, Alice Hamilton became a special investigator for the United States Bureau of Labor in 1911. She broke the gender barrier by becoming the first woman on the faculty of Harvard University in 1919 and later its first professor of public health. During the course of her long career, Hamilton published numerous studies on industrial toxicology, several books, and an autobiography.
Death and Legacy
Alice Hamilton died on September 22, 1970, in Hadlyme, Connecticut. Each year, in tribute to her work, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health presents its Alice Hamilton Award for Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health to those scientists and engineers who excel in the field.
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