Ruth Smith Lloyd

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Ruth Smith Lloyd
Photo of Ruth Smith Lloyd
Ruth M Smith

(1917-01-17)January 17, 1917
DiedFebruary 5, 1995(1995-02-05) (aged 78)
Alma mater
Known forFirst African-American woman to earn a PhD in anatomy.
Scientific career

Ruth Smith Lloyd (January 17, 1917 – February 5, 1995) was a 20th-century scientist whose research focused on fertility, the relationship of sex hormones to growth, and the female sex cycle. She earned a PhD in the field of anatomy from Western Reserve University in 1941, making her the first African-American woman to have reached this achievement.[1] Lloyd worked on the faculty of medicine at Howard University from 1942 to 1977. She married physician Sterling Morrison Lloyd in 1939, and they had three children: Marilyn, Sterling and David. She died of cancer in 1995.

Early life and education[edit]

Ruth Smith was born in Washington, DC on January 17, 1917.[2] Her parents were Mary Elizabeth (Morris) Smith, who was a clerk in the US Treasury Department, and Bradley Donald Smith, who was a pullman porter.[2] She had two sisters named Hilda B, and M Otwiner.[3][4] She was the youngest child.[5] Lloyd attended the prestigious, historically black, Dunbar High School.[2][3]

Lloyd attended Mount Holyoke College, which was then a mostly white institution.[6] Her choice of college was reportedly influenced by the experience of her brother-in-law, William Montague Cobb, who was married to Hilda.[2] Lloyd graduated with a bachelor of arts cum laude in 1937, majoring in zoology.[2][7]

From 1937 to 1938, Lloyd studied for a master's degree in zoology at Howard University supported by a fellowship, under Ernest Everett Just.[2] She had planned on becoming a school teacher, but was encouraged to undertake further study.[5] Lloyd gained a fellowship from the Rosenwald Fund and undertook doctoral studies under Boris Rubenstein at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.[2] She studied the fertility of macaque monkeys,[8] becoming the first African-American woman to gain a PhD in anatomy with her dissertation, Adolescence of macaques (Macacus rhesus) in 1941.[9][2]


Lloyd taught at Hampton Institute in Virginia from 1941 to 1942, and then joined the medical faculty of Howard University in 1942.[2][5][3] Lloyd worked at Howard until her retirement in 1977.[5][3] She taught physiology and anatomy, reaching the rank of associate professor in 1955.[2] Her areas of research were endocrinology, sex-related hormones, and medical genetics.[5] Lloyd also chaired the university's Committee on Student Guidance and was director of the Academic Reinforcement Program.[2][3] From 1947, the Department of Anatomy in which she worked was chaired by William Montague Cobb.[10]

She was a member of Sigma Xi honorary scientific society and the American Association of Anatomists.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Ruth Smith married Sterling Morrison Lloyd in on December 30, 1939.[3][2] He was a physician who also graduated from Howard University, who died in 1980.[2][3] Lloyd had three children and eight grandchildren.[3][2] In retirement, she was active in the All-Souls Unitarian Church, helped found the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1987, and was a member of the social and service organization, Girl Friends.[2][3]

Lloyd died of cancer at home in Washington on February 5, 1995.[3]

See also[edit]



  1. Cobb, W M (1967). "The Howard Department of Anatomy". J Natl Med Assoc. 59 (6): 421–428. PMC 2611414. PMID 4867381.
  2. Epps, C H; Johnson, D G; Vaughan, A L (1993). "Black medical pioneers: African-American 'firsts' in academic and organized medicine. Part three". J Natl Med Assoc. 85 (10): 777–796. PMC 2568213. PMID 8254696.
  3. Lloyd, Ruth Smith (1941). Adolescence of macaques (Macacus rhesus) (PhD thesis). Cleveland OH: Western Case University.
  4. Lloyd, Ruth Smith (1951). "Ovarian changes in immature rabbits induced by equine gonadotrophin". The Anatomical Record. 109 (3): 431–445. doi:10.1002/ar.1091090303.
  5. Lloyd, Ruth Smith (1952). "The vaginal smear technique a critical review of its present status in the practice of medicine". J Natl Med Assoc. 44 (1): 15–21. PMC 2617095. PMID 14908569.
  6. Lloyd, Ruth Smith; Rubenstein, Boris B (1941). "Multipla ova in the follicles of juvenile monkeys". Endocrinology. 29 (6): 1008–1014. doi:10.1210/endo-29-6-1008.
  7. Oakes, Elizabeth H (2002). International encyclopedia of women scientists. Facts on File. ISBN 978-0816043811. OCLC 45835614.
  8. Sammons, Vivian Ovelton (1990). Blacks in science and medicine. Hemisphere. ISBN 978-0891166658.
  9. Sampson, Calvin C (1991). "William Montague Cobb MD PhD (1904-1990)". J Natl Med Assoc. 83 (1): 13–14. PMC 2627008.
  10. Spangenburg, Ray; Moser, Kit (2003). African Americans in science, math, and invention. Facts On File. ISBN 978-1438107745.
  11. Warren, Wini (1999). Black women scientists in the United States. Bloomington IN: Indiana UP. ISBN 978-0253336033.
  12. "Ruth Smith Lloyd, Howard U. Professor". Washington Post. 9 February 1995.

External links[edit]

fertility of macaques Lloyd & Rubenstein (1941)
ovarian changes induced by hormones Lloyd (1951)
vaginal smears Lloyd (1952)