Dr. Ida Bengston was the first woman the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hired as a scientist in 1916. For 30 years she served the NIH – and several communities throughout the U.S., including Rolla.

Bengston came to Rolla in 1924 to lead research on a blindness-causing eye disease named trachoma at the city’s hospital on 13th Street. She also worked as a lecturer in bacteriology at S&T and conducted research in lab space in Parker Hall’s basement.

Over 1,500 patients treated at the Rolla hospital benefitted from Bengston’s research, and she shared the results of her work at a meeting of the Saint Louis Ophthalmic Society. Her work led to the creation of Rolla’s Trachoma Hospital, one of only four such hospitals in the country. (This building on Kingshighway is now home to S&T’s Rock Mechanics and Explosives Research Center.)

Bengston worked in Rolla from 1924-31 before moving on to work in the typhus unit of the NIH. She helped develop a vaccine for typhus and created the complement fixation test, a test still used today to detect Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other diseases.

Share This Story

Spark a Memory?

Share your story! Fill out the form below to share your fondest memory or anecdote of S&T. If you'd prefer not typing, you can also share by phone at 833-646-3715 (833-Miner150).

Remmers series: the talk of the town

Remmers series: the talk of the town

A professor once called Walter Remmers, MetE’23, MS MetE’24, “the laziest man in school.” And Remmers owned up to it….

Advice for tomorrow’s leaders

Advice for tomorrow’s leaders

Louis Smith, EE’66, president of AlliedSignal Inc., gave the commencement address to the graduating class in the spring 1993. The…

Matthew Harris and Grace Lupo

Matthew Harris and Grace Lupo

During a biostatistics lab in the fall of 2017, Matthew Harris saw Grace Lupo sitting by herself and invited her…

Tom Benton’s ‘Missouri,’ from mural to movie

Tom Benton’s ‘Missouri,’ from mural to movie

It was “over a few root beer floats” one night that James Bogan and Frank Fillo decided to make a…

Amanda (Gealy) and Logan Meyer

Amanda (Gealy) and Logan Meyer

Amanda (Gealy) and Logan Meyer met through mutual friends during St. Pat’s in 2010. Amanda earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees…

Pam (Thebeau) and Dennis Leitterman

Pam (Thebeau) and Dennis Leitterman

Although both Pam (Thebeau) and Dennis Leitterman started as freshmen in fall 1971, they didn’t meet until August 1975. “I…