Ida Henrietta Hyde

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Ida Henrietta Hyde
Ida Henrietta Hyde.jpg
Born September 8, 1857
Davenport, Iowa
Died August 22, 1945(1945-08-22) (aged 87)
Berkeley, California
Nationality American
Alma mater Cornell University
University of Heidelberg
Known for Micro-electrode

Ida Henrietta Hyde (September 8, 1857 – August 22, 1945) was an American physiologist known for developing a micro-electrode powerful enough to stimulate tissue chemically or electronically, yet small enough to inject or remove tissue from a cell.


Born in Davenport, Iowa, Ida was one of four children to Meyer and Babette Heidenheimer, German immigrants from Württemberg. The surname Hyde was taken after their arrival in the United States. Ida's father was a merchant that worked out of home and who disappeared on one of his trips, leaving Babette to care for the children. In order to keep the family afloat, they moved to Chicago, where Babette was able to start a prosperous business.[1]

In 1871, the family home was destroyed in the Great Fire of Chicago, which destroyed the family business as well. Without any form of income, the children were forced into labor. Ida entered the work force at age 14 as a milliner's apprentice. Because of her age, older than that of her siblings, much of the burden of supporting the family fell on her. She brought in a large portion of the family income, and even paid for her only brother's education at the University of Illinois. Over time, she rose in her occupation to the job of saleslady. Her experience in the clothing store proved to be valuable later in life because of her ability to fashion her own clothing with minimal supplies.[1]


At the store where she worked, Hyde chanced upon an English version of Ansichten der Natur (View of Nature) by Alexander von Humboldt. It was from this work that her love of biology was born. In addition, it spurred her toward finishing her education, which she did by attending night classes at the Chicago Athenaeum during 1875–76. Her further educational studies came to her while she was visiting her brother at his university and chanced upon meeting several women working in academia. She was able to pass her entrance exams for the College Preparatory School and later entered the same university as her brother.

Her study was cut short when her brother became sick in 1882 and she had to attend to him. This continued for the next six years, during which time she worked as a teacher of second- and third-graders. However, her biological pursuits still were still expressed in her attempts to work nature studies into the public school system.

In 1888 she was finally able to return to the collegiate scene at the age of 31. She enrolled at Cornell University and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in just three years. She was then offered a biology scholarship at Bryn Mawr College. She accepted and began under the tutelage of Jacques Loeb and Thomas Hunt Morgan.[1] In 1893, Hyde received a European Fellowship from the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, which would later become the American Association of University Women.

Ida received her Ph.D. at Heidelberg University, Germany at age 39 after many frustrating obstacles presented because of her gender. She was required to go beyond the work of an average student to receive her degree, and became the third woman to graduate with a doctorate there. The main problem in obtaining her degree was that her teaching professor, Wilhelm Kühne, disliked the thought of allowing a woman to work under him. But her accomplishments eventually surmounted his opposition and he awarded her with her doctorate.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Rose, Rose (1997). Women in the biological sciences: a biobibliographic sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 246. ISBN 0-313-29180-2. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  2. ^ Johnson, Elsie (1981). "Ida Henrietta Hyde: Early Experiments". Physiologist 24 (6): 1–2. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 

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