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Today is the birthday of Alice Hamilton (27 Feb 1869 – 22 Sep 1970), an American pathologist and pioneering toxicologist, known for her research into industrial and occupational diseases.

Many workplaces are fraught with disease risks resulting from the presence of industrial poisons.(© All Rights Reserved)

Many workplaces are fraught with disease risks resulting from the presence of industrial poisons.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Hamilton started working as a special investigator for the US Bureau of Labour in 1911, where she got involved in field investigations of mines, mills, and smelters. Initially she focused on lead poisoning, but later extended her research into other industrial poisons including arsenic, carbon monoxide, picric acid and aniline dyes. She compiled statistics on worker mortality and morbidity at various sites over time, documenting the industrial poisons that caused the workers’ deaths.

By actively publicizing the dangers of industrial toxic substances  to workers’ health, she made a meaningful contribution to improved, safer working conditions for American workers.

In 1919 she became the first woman appointed to the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Here she continued her research into toxicology and occupational health until her retirement in 1935. After retirement she served as a medical consultant to the US Division of Labor Standards, and retained her connections to Harvard as professor emerita. She lived to the ripe age of 101.

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