STEM and Tree

Master Gardeners host Alice Ball Day celebration

  • 27 February 2020
  • Author: Frederika Bain
  • Number of views: 4143
STEM and Tree

CTAHR Master Gardeners are honoring a special tree and the scholar it commemorates at the Alice Ball Day celebration on Friday, February 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

Alice Ball is a STEM heroine who in 1915 was the first woman and first African American to earn a master’s degree in chemistry from UH. An instructor and then head of the Chemistry department, she first studied kava but later began to research chaulmoogra, a tree that had long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. She succeeded in creating an injectable form of chaulmoogra oil, which became the most effective treatment for Hansen’s disease in the first half of the twentieth century. Tragically, she died at the age of 24, and her research contributions were not acknowledged for decades.

The site of the celebration on Friday will be the chaulmoogra tree by Bachman Hall, which was presented to UH in the 1930s by the King of Siam in honor of Alice Ball. A group of Master Gardeners have adopted and care for the tree and are also studying how to propagate it in order to give a seedling from the tree to Kalaupapa, the site of the notorious Hansen’s disease community of Moloka‘i. Find out more, hear music, and talk story at the celebration under the chaulmoogra!