Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916)

Alice Ball was an African American chemist who developed an injectable oil extract which became the treatment for leprosy until the 1940s.

Alice Augusta Ball

While chaulmoogra oil had previously been used for leprosy, the treatments were ineffective and rife with challenges. Alice revolutionized the application method and made the oil injectable. Shortly after her discovery at the University of Hawaii, Alice died at the age of 24 and was unable to publish her findings. The president of the university continued Alice’s work, publishing the findings as his own, without giving credit to her.

In the meantime, her discovery led to the release of many people from leper colonies. It was not until decades later that her work was recognized. In 2000, the University of Hawaii dedicated a plaque to Alice in front of a lone chaulmoogra tree on campus, and 100 years later, her story is finally being told.


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