Her Story: Ruth Ella Moore

Women's History: Honoring Ruth Ella Moore. First African-American to earn a Ph.D. in Microbiology.

Ruth Ella Moore (1903-1994) overcame obstacles of race and gender to become the very first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in Microbiology and the first African-American to join the American Society for Microbiology.

Born in the fast growing city Columbus, Ohio on May 19, 1903. Ruth Ella Moore was the  daughter of an artist and seamstress mother that placed great value on the importance of an education. Moore was a precocious child that worked hard and heeded her mothers wishes to pursue a higher education. She earned her Bachelor’s in Science degree in 1926, and a Master’s in Science a year later in 1927, both from Ohio State University.

To support herself and earn money for graduate school, Moore spent a few years teaching English and hygiene at Tennessee State College (now Tennessee State University). In 1933 she completed her PhD in Bacteriology, making Moore the first African-American of either gender to do so. Dr. Ruth Moore also became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in the natural sciences.

Moore’s research focus for her dissertation was the bacteriology of tuberculosis (Bacterium Mycobacterium Tuberculosi). At the time this was an area of monumental health implications in the United States where tuberculosis was the second leading cause of death. While the cure for TB was still over a decade away, Moore’s work contributed to the eradication the disease.

Upon graduation, Dr. Moore began teaching Howard University Medical School. in 1945, Dr. Moore was chosen as acting head Head of the Department of Bacteriology (she changed the name to Department of Microbiology). She went on to serve as head of the department from 1955 to 1960, making her the first female to her any department at Howard.

We take a moment today to recognize this important scientist, who left a legacy of significant contributions to the world as a researcher, professor, and leader. Thank you Dr. Ruth Ella Moore for inspiring generations to come.

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Mother, Photographer, Wisecracker.... not necessarily in that order.

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