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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Woman of the Week – Elizabeth Lee Hazen

Posted December 02, 2019 4:30 PM by lmno24

Elizabeth Lee Hazen is most known for her contribution in developing the first anti-fungal drug, nyastatin. She and Rachel Fuller Brown (last week’s WoW) teamed up in 1948 to make the discovery.

She was born on August 24, 1885 in Rich, Mississippi. Her parents died when she was four and she and her siblings were adopted by their aunt and uncle. She went on to attend the Mississippi University for Women and earned a Bachelor of Science in 1910. She continued her education at both the University of Tennessee and University of Virginia. While she was continuing her education, she taught high school physics and biology.

She completed her graduate studies at Columbia University as well as a Ph.D. in microbiology. She was one of the first female students there.

During World War I, she served as an Army diagnostic laboratory technician. This experience helped her get a job with the New York State Department of Health where she worked on bacterial diagnosis. Some of her work there included tracing improperly preserved foods and an outbreak of anthrax.

Elizabeth Lee Hazen (left) and Rachel Fuller Brown (right).

From there, she worked at the New York office of the Division of Laboratories and Research of the State Department of Public Health and studied fungi and fungal diseases. In 1944, she was chosen alongside Rachel Fuller Brown to spearhead an investigation on fungi. Hazen specifically studied diseases that were spread across New York.

Soon, she had a growing collection of fungi and potential antifungal agents. Alongside Brown, she worked to look for an antifungal agent.

Microorganisms (animals or plants of microscopic size) called actinomycetes were known to produce antibiotics. Brown started to work on them and found that they did kill fungus but they were also fatal to mice.

They narrowed her microorganism search to one in particular, Streptomyces norsei, which was found in soil on her friend’s dairy farm in Virginia.

She purified the antibiotic and in 1950, Brown and Hazen announced the discovery. They patented it under the name "nystatin" in honor of the New York State Division of Laboratories and Research.

It became popular as medicine but also for preserving art and helping to cure diseases on trees.

In her later life, she continued research and tried to find new uses for nystatin. She died June 24, 1975 in Seattle, Washington.

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Join Date: May 2019
Location: Newcastle
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#1

Re: Woman of the Week – Elizabeth Lee Hazen

12/05/2019 5:34 AM

"In 1844, she was chosen alongside Rachel Fuller Brown to spearhead an investigation on fungi."

I guess that should be 1944.

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#2
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Re: Woman of the Week – Elizabeth Lee Hazen

12/05/2019 8:06 AM

Thanks for the catch.

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