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Celebrating Black Scientists: Ruth Ella Moore

We're celebrating Black History Month by highlighting black scientists! Each Thursday of the month on the blog, we'll feature a new black scientist that has or is changing the world as we know it (also featured on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn). Our third highlighted black scientist is Ruth Ella Moore; learn about her work and accomplishments below!

Ruth Ella Moore was a bacteriologist known for her work on blood types, tuberculosis, tooth decay, and gut microorganisms. She completed her dissertation work on tuberculosis at Ohio State University in 1933, becoming the first black woman to earn a Ph.D. in the natural sciences. After earning her Ph.D. in bacteriology, Moore became an assistant professor at Howard University where she was later appointed the head of the bacteriology department. This appointment made Moore the first woman to head any department at Howard.

The research she conducted on African-American blood types and later on the reaction of different gut microorganisms to antibiotics has had significant impacts on public health. During her career, Moore was a member of several scientific associations and societies and was the first black member of the American Society of Microbiology. Moore was also an accomplished seamstress and garment designer. Her garments have been exhibited at Ohio State University where she earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Throughout her career, she was a member of the American Public Health Association and American Society of Microbiology which she joined in 1936. Moore was the first African-American to join the American Society for Microbiology. As a black woman, she faced restrictions to attending American Society for Microbiology meetings, particularly where Jim Crow laws were in effect, mandating segregation in hotels and conference venues. Moore also was a member of the American Association of Science, American Society of Immunology, the American Association of Microbiology, and the American Public Health Association.

Moore was also awarded two honorary degrees from Oberlin College (a doctorate in literature) and Gettysburg University (a doctorate in philosophy) around the time of her retirement from Howard University in 1973. Moore received the Centennial Award for Distinguished Alumni from Ohio State University. In 2005, U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson introduced a congressional bill recognizing the work of Ruth Ella Moore along with that of other scientists in the United States. Ohio State University College of Public Health created the Ella Moore First Generation Student Scholarship to honor Moore’s legacy and to support upcoming trailblazers in a similar field.

Interested in learning more about Ruth Ella Moore? Visit Come back next Thursday for a new blog and learn about more black scientists that are changing the world as we know it.

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