Spring 2020

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Marguerite Davis, Elizabeth McCoy, and Esther Lederberg were all remarkable researchers and women in their own right, but CALS has seen the likes of many exceptional women scholars in its long history. Here is just a sampling of these groundbreaking women, and their accomplishments, from the college’s storied past.

Alice C. Evans, who linked brucellosis to raw cow’s and goat’s milk, works in the laboratory in 1912. Photo: University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives

Alice C. Evans MS1910 (pictured above) was the first female recipient of a graduate scholarship in bacteriology at UW–Madison. She earned a master’s degree before joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She would go on to link brucellosis to raw cow’s and goat’s milk, which led to widespread mandates for milk pasteurization. Evans was awarded an honorary doctorate from UW in 1936.

Mary V. Buell PhD1919 was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. from the UW–Madison Department of Biochemistry. She focused on nutrition, physiological chemistry, and medical chemistry in her research and worked at a number of prominent universities. She began the first of two appointments at the Wisconsin Enzyme Institute in 1948 and returned in 1960.

Nellie Rose McCannon MS’53 joined the agricultural journalism department (now the Department of Life Sciences Communication) in 1953 and served the university for 37 years. She was also president of the Madison Chapter of Women in Communications and created an annual workshop for Wisconsin women editors and reporters.

Dorothy Pringle MS’51, professor emeritus of nutritional studies, was a faculty member from 1953 to 1985. Her research focused on social and economic influences on food habits and nutrition. She was a pioneer for programs in dietetics and public service in nutrition.

Margaret “Gretel” Dentine became the first female dairy science professor at UW in 1985. She was known internationally as an outstanding young geneticist and animal breeder. She served as associate dean for research at CALS and executive director of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station.

Mary Beth Kirkham was the first female graduate student in the Department of Soil Science and earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in botany with a minor in soil science. She is now a University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University. Kirkham is a leading figure in the fields of soil science and agronomy and received the CALS Distinguished Alumni Award in 2017.

Main story: ‘The Sweeping Landscape of Her Work’

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