The contributions of Alice Hamilton, ‘shoe leather epidemiologist’

Alice Hamilton, a leading authority on workplace health and Harvard University’s first female faculty member, was the subject of a recent WBEZ Chicago article.

The May 20, 2021, article noted that Hamilton, who was appointed assistant professor of industrial medicine at Harvard in 1919, is often referred to as the “mother of occupational medicine.” She is credited with laying the groundwork for the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency overseeing workplace safety.

Hamilton was known for her “shoe-leather epidemiology,” referring to the many trips she made to factories, hospitals, and other places to investigate how various toxins—such as arsenic, carbon monoxide, lead, and mercury—were affecting workers. Hamilton’s research led to some of the first workplace safety laws in the country. She died in 1970 at age 101.

Listen to or read the WBEZ Chicago article: Alice Hamilton Changed Workplace Safety Forever—And You’ve Likely Never Heard Of Her

Learn more

The education of occupational health pioneer Alice Hamilton (Harvard Chan School feature)

Public health pioneer Alice Hamilton documented dire health conditions in post-World War I Germany (Harvard Chan School news)

Harvard’s first lady (Harvard Chan School news)