Mary Letitia Caldwell

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Mary Letitia Caldwell
Born (1890-12-18)December 18, 1890
Bogota, Colombia
Died July 1, 1972(1972-07-01) (aged 81)
Fishkill, New York
Nationality American
Fields Chemistry
Institutions Columbia University
Alma mater Western College for Women, Columbia University

Mary Letitia Caldwell (December 18, 1890 – July 1, 1972)[1] was an American chemist. Growing up she valued education and strived to achieve. She was an instructor at Western College teaching chemistry. She was known for being unique and descriptive along with being family orientated. Maria was in a wheel chair due to muscular disability. Most of her work centered on amylase, a starch enzyme, most notably finding a method for purifying crystalline porcine pancreatic amylase. She spent sixty years doing this.[1][2] Maria is known as a role model and mentor for many women.

Early life and education[edit]

Caldwell was born in Bogota, Colombia, to American missionaries. She earned her bachelor's degree from the Western College for Women in 1913 and taught at the school until 1918. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1919 and 1921.


Caldwell spent the rest of her career teaching at Columbia. She became the only female member of the senior faculty in the chemistry department,[1] becoming the first woman to attain the rank of assistant professor at Columbia.[3] She attained the rank of full professor in 1948.[1]

Caldwell had a progressive muscular disability, and was confined to a wheelchair by 1960. Despite this, her 9th floor office at her research facility, Chandler Hall, never changed.[4]

In 1959 she retired to Fishkill, New York. In 1960, she received the Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society, an honor awarded annually to a US female chemist.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c d e Svoronos, Soraya (1993). "Mary Letitia Caldwell". In Grinstein, Louise S.; Rose, Rose K.; Rafailovich, Miriam H. Women in Chemistry and Physics: A Biobibliographic Sourcebook. Greenwood Press. pp. 72–6. 
  2. ^ "Mary L. Caldwell of Columbia Dies". New York Times. July 3, 1972. p. 20. 
  3. ^ "Women at Columbia". Columbia University. March 2004. Retrieved July 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ Barbosa, Patty. "Mary Letitia Caldwell". CSU Pomona. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  5. ^ "Woman in Wheelchair Gets Chemistry Medal". New York Times. April 10, 1960. p. 31. 

Further reading[edit]