Image of Ellen S. Richards' Research Notes Ellen S. Richards' Research Notes
Ellen Swallow Richards Jamaica Pond notes

When you turn on the tap in the United States, you can be sure the water you drink is safe. For that, you can thank Ellen Swallow Richards, MIT’s first woman graduate (1873) and woman faculty member. Richards invented ecology and home economics, made crucial contributions to the field of sanitary chemistry, and wrote several books and articles. Her work on water quality yielded the greatest social benefit. The Massachusetts State Board of Health was concerned about the problem of industrial waste and municipal sewage polluting the state’s water supply. Collecting and testing some 20,000 water samples, Richards’ work led to the first state water-quality standards in the United States, the first municipal sewage treatment plant (located in Lowell), and standards for the use of chlorine to maintain water quality. These notes come from her study of Oscillaria prolifica, a dark green, purplish black type of freshwater algae found in Jamaica Pond near her home in Boston.

On loan from the Ellen Henrietta Swallow Richards Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

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