Dr. Ruth Ella Moore

Dr. Ruth Ella Moore was a bacteriologist whose research led to a better understanding of tuberculosis, gut microbiome, tooth decay, and blood types. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, her mother was an artist and seamstress, and stressed education. She obtained her BS (1926) and MA (1927) in Microbiology, and PhD (1933) in Bacteriology from Ohio State University (OSU). Her PhD focused on tuberculosis before there was a treatment, and she was the first Black woman with a PhD in the natural sciences. She also received honorary degrees from Oberlin College and Gettysburg College.

Dr. Moore became an Assistant Professor at Howard University (1940) and the Department Head of Bacteriology (1952), where she was the first African American woman to head any department at Howard. She renamed it the Department of Microbiology. She contributed to many areas of microbiology in her career. She discussed the role of carbohydrates and immunology in dental carries. Her work characterized the gut microbiome in cockroaches and its relation to antibiotic sensitivity and resistance. She also researched the distribution of different blood types among African Americans and Enterobacteriaceae.

She was also active professionally and in her community. She was the first Black member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). She served as Chair of Scholarship and Loans Committee and the Student Guidance Committee at Howard. She also had a talent for sewing and her garments were displayed in 2009 during an Ohio State Historic Costume & Textiles exhibition. While she was very skilled, she was not promoted to Associate Professor for a decade and was never promoted to full Professor. In part due to her mentoring and service, she is honored annually at Howard through the Ruth E. Moore and Lloyd H. Newman Service Award and the ASM Minority Committee awarded her a Life-Time Achievement Award in 1986. She continued teaching until 1973 and passed away in 1994.


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  2. https://awis.org/historical-women/ruth-ella-moore/
  3. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/moore-ruth-ella-moore-1903-1994/
  4. https://microbialmenagerie.com/meet-microbiologist-ruth-ella-moore-the-first-black-woman-to-earn-a-phd-in-the-natural-sciences/  
  5. https://cph.osu.edu/news/2022/01/proud-theyre-ours-ruth-ella-moore
  6. https://www.microbigals.com/post/dr-ruth-ella-moore-fashionista-tb-researchers-first-black-american-to-get-a-phd-in-bacteriology
  7. https://blog.eoscu.com/blog/american-medical-hero-dr.-ruth-e.-moore
  8. https://www.the-scientist.com/leader-of-the-pack-1903-1994-68818