Featured History Science

Alice Ball

Alice Ball was an African American chemist that made an injectable herbal extract. The treatment was most effective for a disease  that is called leprosy and it was only for the disease leprosy. Leprosy is a disease that causes you to have bumps on your skin.  Alice Ball was the first African American that obtained her master’s degree in Chemistry. The university that Alice Ball got her master’s degree was the University of Hawaii. Alice Ball was the first African American woman to be a chemistry professor. She also attended another university that is called the University of Washington to study more about chemistry.

The date that Alice Ball was born was July 24, 1916 and the place was Seattle,Washington. Her parents where James Presley and Laura Louise Ball. Ms. Ball had 4 children. Alice had two older brothers named William and Robert and had a younger sister named Addie. Alice Ball’s family was a middle class family and her father was an editor, photographer, and a lawyer. Her grandfather name was  James Ball Sr. He was a famous photographer, and was the first Black American man in the USA to use the early photography method of daguerreotype. Alice Ball and her family moved to Seattle to Honolulu during Alice Ball’s childhood and Alice was 9 years old when they moved there.

Alice’s grandfather died a little after they moved to Seattle. Alice Ball attended Seattle high school and she earned top grades in sciences. Then she attended Washington University to study chemistry where she earned her bachelor’s degree and then received her second degree two year later. She graduated from Seattle High School in 1910 and worked together with her pharmacy instructor in a 10 page article called “Benzoylations in Ether Solution.” That kind of success for women was very rare at that time. She was offer a lot of scholarships, including from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Hawaii. She chose the University of Hawaii. She studied there until she got her master’s degree for chemistry. She was the first Black American to get her master’s degree and the first woman to become a chemistry professor.

The year that Alice Ball died was Dec 31,1916 at the age of only 24 years old. She became sick when she was doing research. A news report said that the one person gave Alice Ball a gas mask to preparation for an attack since World War I had started. They do not know what caused Alice Ball’s death. She was not credited for her scientific contributions until 1922 when she was briefly mentioned in a medical journal.  In 2000, the University of Hawaii finally honored her by making February 29 Alice Ball Day. In 2007, Ball was honored to the Board of  Regents with a medal of Distinction and in 2016 Hawaii Magazine ranked Alice Ball the most influential woman in Hawaiian history. A new park in Seattle was named Alice Ball. In 2019, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine added Ball’s name to the frieze atop its main building. This is Alice Ball’s life and how she was a woman that helped the world get rid off a disease.


“Alice Ball.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Sept. 2019,