Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Alice Hamilton, MD: gaining visibility for industrial medicine
  1. D F Salerno1,
  2. I L Feitshans2
  1. 1Pfizer Global Research and Development, Ann Arbor Laboratories, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  2. 2Adjunct Faculty, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Albany, NY, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Deborah F Salerno
 2800 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA;

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

27 February 1869–22 September 1970
 Country of birth: USA

First and foremost, Alice Hamilton was an expert on lead. Inside factory walls, she won respect—from labour and management—as an effective agent of change, appealing to morality rather than profit. A pioneer in industrial toxicology and an American social activist, Hamilton chaired the first state commission to survey occupational disease, and held the nation’s first university appointment in industrial medicine. She brought credibility to a field rife with industrial bias. Her struggles were coupled to a pragmatic nature, lending itself to incremental change.


photo credit: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

“For me, the satisfaction is that things are better now, and I had some part of it.”

In addition to authoritative work on the dangerous lead trades (for example, smelting, refining, painting, manufacturing), Hamilton conducted studies on mercury, carbon monoxide, rubber, and the munitions industries. In a span of 40 years, she authored over 80 scientific reports. Her pace slowed only in old age (she died at age 101). The US OSHAct was enacted three months after her death in 1970.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the insight and generous contributions of Allen F Davis, Vilma R Hunt, Anne Firor Scott, Barbara Sicherman, and Myron Wegman.

27 February 1869–22 September 1970
 Country of birth: USA