Ellen Swallow Richards

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Ellen Swallow Richards

A dietician of her time

Born in Dunstable in 1842, Ellen Swallow was a chemist, nutritionist and economist; she was also a campaigner for the rights of woman scientists.

She enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and was the first woman to enter this Degree. Can you imagine a class at the University with just one girl? She couldn’t have had a very nice time, mainly because they did not award her a doctorate just because she was a woman!

After her experience at University she obtained funds from the Women’s Education Association of Boston to set up a laboratory. She also founded the American Association of University Women, from which she encouraged women to study Natural Sciences.

She was also the founder of a science called “Home Economics”, a mixture of cooking, nutrition, water supply, hygiene and health. Her job at the MIT included researching topics like water pollution or improving nutrition in schools and hospitals, and she defended the importance of teaching Home Economics in public schools.