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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau – Supported Production of Penicillin, Chemicals During WWII

Posted December 27, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau was a chemical engineer who, during WWII, designed the processes for producing high-octane gasoline and penicillin.

Margaret was born in Texas in 1911. She earned a bachelor's degree from Rice University in 1932. By 1937 she became the first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her first career was at E.B. Badger where she worked on the design of production plants. She also met her future husband with whom she would have one child. Some of her early design work focused on the synthetic rubber that was needed for the war.

Penicillin was first mass produced in the U.S. in the early 1940s. In 1942 there was enough penicillin available in the country to treat just 10 patients. Scientists combined the discovery of the best penicillin being found on a moldy cantaloupe with fermentation research. Margaret developed the process of deep-tank fermentation which enabled large-scale production of penicillin.

Later, Margaret worked on improved equipment and methods for refining oil and the development of high-octane aviation fuel. She also improved distillation column design and plants for the production of chemicals like ethylene glycol (anti-freeze) and glacial acetic acid.

Margaret received awards from the Society of Women Engineers and AlChE. She died on January 11, 2000.

Resources: Celebrating 125 Years of Women at MIT; Chemical Engineers in Action - Innovators in Biomedicine; News Medical - Penicillin Biosynthesis; Convey Inc - In Defense; Wikipedia - Margaret Hutchinson Rousseau; image

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