Mary Engle Pennington


Mary Engle Pennington


Mary Engle Pennington was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1872 and had tremendous impact on sanitation standards and refrigeration technology.

Pennington entered the University of Pennsylvania and 1890 and would have received a B.S. in chemistry with minors in botany and zoology in 1892 but since they didn't grant degree to women, she was given a certificate of proficiency. She received a Ph.D. from UPenn in 1895 and was a university fellow in botany until 1896, then a fellow in physiological chemistry at Tale until 1899. She worked with the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania as Director of their Clinical Laboratory, and as a researcher in hygiene at UPenn until 1901.

She worked as a bacteriologist with the Philadelphia Bureau of Health and was instrumental in improving sanitation standards for the handling of milk products. She worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a bacteriological chemist and went on to work as chief of the Food Research Laboratory, established for the Pure Food and Drug Act. Pennington developed standards for the safe processing of chickens for consumption, headed an investigation into refrigerated boxcar designs, and during World War I and served on Hoover's War Food Administration.

After her involvement with refrigerated boxcars, she developed and was awarded a patent for an all-metal poultry-cooling rack. In 1919 she began working for American Balsa, who manufactured insulation for refrigeration units. She then stated her own consulting business in 1922 which she ran until retirement in 1952. In 1923 she founded the Household Refrigeration Bureau to education consumers in safe practices in domestic refrigeration.

Pennington received the Garvan-Olin Medal, the highest award given to women in the American Chemical Society. She is also an inductee of both the National Women's Hall of Fame and the ASHRAE Hall of Fame. In 2018, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

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