Women who paved the way: Alice Ball

Alice Ball alleviated the symptoms of leprosy for thousands of people with the introduction of the Ball Method.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alice Ball alleviated the symptoms of leprosy for thousands of people with the introduction of the “Ball Method.”

Emily Dvareckas, Photo Editor

In light of Women’s History Month, The Hawks’ Herald is featuring important women from throughout history. The first week of March highlights women who have paved the way in science.

Alice Ball was born on July 24, 1892 in Seattle, Washington. She graduated from Seattle High School in 1910 and went on to attend the University of Washington where she studied chemistry and received her degree in pharmaceutical chemistry. Two years later, in 1914, she received another degree in pharmacy.

She then transferred to the College of Hawaii where she became the first woman and first Black graduate when she received her Masters of Science in Chemistry in 1915. She was offered a teaching position as well as a research position at the university after her graduation. By accepting this offer, she became the first female professor at the school. She accomplished these achievements by the age of 23.

While working in the laboratory, Ball began seeking remedies to the disease now known as leprosy. The research she conducted resulted in the first injectable leprosy treatment. Ball’s findings and treatment were dubbed the “Ball Method” and helped alleviate leprosy symptoms for thousands of people across a 30-year span. For the first time, people diagnosed with leprosy were able to live without symptoms and live normal lives. Her discovery changed the lives of people around the globe. Unfortunately, she was unable to see the full impact of her work as she passed away on December 31, 1916 at the age of 24 following a lab accident.

After her death, President of the College of Hawaii Dr. Arthur Dean continued her research and completely took credit for her discovery, even going so far as to label the treatment the “Dean Method.” In 1922, Dr. Harry T. Hollmann, assistant surgeon at Kalihi Hospital, published a paper giving Alice Ball the credit she deserved. Dr. Hollmann was the person that urged Ball to look into chaulmoogra oil, the main ingredient in the treatment. Ball spent such a short time on Earth but in the time she did have, she created hope for thousands of people.