An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Alum Books Podcast: New Bio Chronicles MIT’s First Alumna

  • Joe McGonegal
  • slice.mit.edu
  • 4

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Ellen Swallow Richards, born this day in 1842, graduated from MIT in 1873 and later became an instructor there. In this edition of the MIT Alumni Books podcast, Richards's cousin, three generations removed, tells the story of Richards's remarkable life. Listen now.

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Pamela Curtis Swallow discusses "The Swallow Experiment" and the legacy of her forebear in this podcast.  "What a difference she made in her years at MIT," Swallow says. "I'm so proud of her. I can't believe I've got some of the same genes."

Swallow, a children’s author, published The Remarkable Life and Career of Ellen Swallow Richards in August with John Wiley and Sons, the same house that published Richards’s fifteen books on ecology and science in her lifetime.

In her nearly 40 years at MIT, Richards tolerated prejudice, skepticism, and isolation, but she endured. She advocated for the founding establishment of a women’s laboratory for chemistry, spearheaded the New England Kitchen movement, and advanced research in the fields of hydrology, ecology, and home economics. Since her graduation in 1873, more than 26,000 alumnae have followed.

Swallow’s account of her cousin speaks to Richards’s immediate impact and enduring legacy. At her funeral in 1911, for instance, Richards’s critics turned admirers became her devoted pallbearers.

“They had certainly changed their tune as they had gotten to know her,” says Swallow. “MIT had its flags at half-mast. It certainly was a turnaround. What a difference she made in her years at MIT.”

Listen to the complete podcast here. Listen to past books podcasts on optics, health care, and architecture by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

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Comments

Tue, 04/07/2015 9:23am

thank you for information :) very nice

Wed, 02/11/2015 4:18am

Thanks, beautiful :-D

Fri, 01/23/2015 1:57am

Yes good beautifull :)

Fri, 12/05/2014 10:31am

I first read about Ellen Swallow Richards in a mystery novel about the first class at Boston Tech (MIT): The Technologists by Matthew Pearl (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11936279-the-technologists).
The names of many of the characters are real, including Ellen. The story of her difficulties has the ring of truth.

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