Alumna Ruth Ella Moore's work continues to inform the global struggle against tuberculosis
Ruth Ella Moore ’26 BS, ’27 MA, ’33 PhD
Born: May 19, 1903
Died: July 19, 1994
College highlights: Three-time alumna Ruth Ella Moore became the first Black woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in the natural sciences in 1933, delivering her dissertation on the bacteriology of tuberculosis. Prior to that, she earned a bachelor’s in microbiology in 1926 and a master’s in bacteriology in 1927. Born in Columbus in 1903, Moore was encouraged by her mother, Margaret, an artist and seamstress. As a scholar, Moore inspired her family, recalled her cousin Sandra Jamison, when Moore was inducted into Ohio State’s Diversity Hall of Fame earlier this year. “She was really sort of on a pedestal as far as the rest of us were concerned,” Jamison says. Moore also received two honorary degrees, from Oberlin College and Gettysburg College. Today, Moore’s legacy lives on through the College of Public Health Ruth Ella Moore First Generation Student Scholarship, which provides support to students who have overcome substantial educational or economic obstacles. “What relevance does Ruth Ella Moore have for students in public health today? Well, there’s not only the work that she did as a microbiologist, a bacteriologist, that continues to be relevant, but there’s also her impact as a trailblazer,” says Dean Amy Fairchild.
Career highlights: Moore joined the Howard University College of Medicine as an assistant professor of microbiology in 1940, and by 1952, she was chair of the department of bacteriology. Her research helped curtail tuberculosis, detail the prevalence of different blood types among African Americans, and explain the reactions of gut microorganisms to different classes of antibiotics. Moore’s work was published in several scientific journals, including The Journal of the American Medical Association. At Howard, where she retired in 1973, she was a teacher and mentor to generations of students. Moore also was known for her love of fashion and for her handmade, stylish clothing. In 2009, several of her garments were featured in an Ohio State Historic Costume & Textiles Collection exhibition.
This story originally appeared in the winter 2021 issue of the Ohio State Alumni Magazine.