Rachel Bodley

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Rachel Bodley
Rachel Bodley crop.jpg
BornDecember 7, 1831
DiedJune 15, 1888 (age 56)
OccupationUniversity teaching and leadership

Rachel Littler Bodley (December 7, 1831 – June 15, 1888) was an American professor and university leader. She was best known for her term as Dean of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (1874–1888).


Bodley was the eldest daughter of a Presbyterian carpenter and pattern maker Anthony Prichard Bodley and teacher Rebecca Wilson Bodley (née Talbot).[1] She attended the primary school which her mother ran. In 1848 she entered the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati and graduated at age 17 in 1849. She served as an assistant teacher at Wesleyan until 1860, when she entered the Polytechnic College of Pennsylvania to study advanced chemistry and physics. She also studied anatomy and physiology at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania.

In 1862, Bodley became a professor of natural sciences at the Cincinnati Female Seminary. She took on the organization of the herbarium which had been donated to the Seminary by the heirs of Joseph Clark (1823-1858). It was an extensive collection of local flora, and the guide to the collection which Bodley compiled, printed in 1865, also served as a guide to plants in the Cincinnati area.

In 1865 she left the Cincinnati Female Seminary, to become the Chair of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she would spend the rest of her career. She was the first woman to become a professor of chemistry at a medical school. In 1874 she was elected Dean of the faculty, and retained that position until her death. She presided over construction of the school's first new building, and conducted a statistical study of the school's graduates, said to be the first such factual study of women in the medical profession (The College Story, pamphlet).[2] She presided over the graduation of one of the first Hindu women (the other being Kadambini Ganguly), to obtain a degree in Western medicine, Anandi Gopal Joshi. The event was witnessed by Pandita Ramabai and she was congratulated by Queen Victoria. Bodley later wrote an introduction to Pandita Ramabai's book The High-Caste Hindu Woman (1887).

Bodley became a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (presently Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University) in 1871 and the New York Academy of Sciences in 1876.[3]

Bodley was director of the twenty-ninth school section in Philadelphia 1882-85 and 1887-88.[1]


  • Catalogue of plants contained in herbarium of Joseph Clark
  • The College Story


  1. ^ a b Clark A Elliott (1979). Biographical Dictionary of American Science: The Seventeenth Through the Nineteenth Centuries. Westport and London.: Greenwood Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-313-20419-7.
  2. ^ Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie (1986). Women in Science: Antiquity Through the Nineteenth Century : a Biographical Dictionary with Annotated Bibliography. MIT Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-262-65038-0.
  3. ^ Oakes, Elizabeth (2002). International Encyclopedia of Women Scientists. New York: Facts on File. pp. 36–37.

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