Inventors are inspirational. Rachel Fuller Brown was an inventor, chemist, and philanthropist. She is known for her work with microbiologist Elizabeth Lee Hazen and their discovery and development of the first useful antifungal, antibiotic, Nystatin.
Rachel Fuller Brown was born on November 23, 1898 in Springfield, Massachusetts. When she was fourteen her parents separated. Rachel graduated from Central High School, however her mother could not afford college. A family friend decided to pay for her to attend Mount Holyoke College. Rachel graduated with her B.A. in chemistry and history in 1920. She worked as a laboratory assistant for awhile. Then in 1921 she earned an M.S. in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. Rachel then taught for a few years at Frances Shimer School near Chicago. She took classes at Harvard and then did graduate work in organic chemistry and bacteriology at the University of Chicago. She did not earn her PhD due to scheduling conflicts for her oral examinations. She got a job at the Division of Laboratories and Research in Albany, New York.
She worked there for seven years before returning to Chicago, taking her oral examinations, and earning her PhD. At the Division’s laboratories she helped to develop a pneumonia vaccine and researched ways to improve the test for syphilis among other work. She began her famous antifungal, antibacterial work in 1948. She began her long distance work with Hazen in 1948. The two scientists eventually gained national recognition for discovering an antibiotic to fight fungal infections. The name eventually became Nystatin in honor of the New York State Division of Laboratories and Research. Nystatin proved effective in fighting human diseases, stopping fungal growth on flood-damaged works of art,and slowing the spread of Dutch Elm Disease in elm trees. What became mycostatin tablets for humans were mass produced in 1954.
In 1951, Rachel became an associate biochemist with the Department of Health and Laboratories. Brown and Hazen made additional contributions to bacteriology, including discovering two more antibiotics-phalmycin and capacidin. Millions of dollars in royalties supported the Brown-Hazen Fund. Brown and Hazen received awards. Brown was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994.
Philanthropy is inspiring as well. Brown became an administrative member and Sunday School teacher of her Episcopalian church. The Brown-Hazen Fund encouraged women in science and supported training and research in biomedical sciences. For over fifty years Brown was an active member of the American Association of University Women supporting the participation of women in science. She paid back the woman that supported her and created scholarships to pass it on. Rachel Fuller Brown passed away on January 14, 1980 in Albany, New York. She hoped for equality of opportunities and accomplishments. Be inspired! Have a bright day!