Five College Archives and Manuscript Collections
Mount Holyoke College seal
Brown papers, ca.1916-1980.
3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)
Collection number: MS 0777 (LD 7096.6 1920 Brown)

Brown, Rachel Fuller, 1898-1980; Chemist. Mount Holyoke College graduate, 1920. Papers consist of course records, writings, correspondence, memorabilia, an autograph album, biographical information, and photographs. Primarily documenting her coursework at Mount Holyoke College and her collaboration with Elizabeth Lee Hazen in the discovery of the antibiotic Nystatin.

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Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
South Hadley, MA

Biographical Note

Rachel Fuller Brown was born on November 23, 1898 in Springfield, Massachusetts to George Hamilton Brown and Annie Fuller Brown. After her father left the family when Brown was twelve, her mother worked as a secretary and director of religious education at various churches. Brown entered Mount Holyoke College in 1916 and graduated with an B.A. degree in history and chemistry in 1920. In 1921 she received an M.S. degree in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. For the next three years Brown taught at the Frances Shimer School in Chicago, Illinois before returning to the University of Chicago to study for her Ph.D. She completed her doctoral research in 1926 and received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry and bacteriology in 1933. In 1926 Brown began her career as a research chemist at the New York State Division of Laboratories and Research in Albany, New York. In 1948 she began collaborating with Dr. Elizabeth Lee Hazen, a microbiologist, to isolate the first antifungal antibiotic for human use. In 1950 they announced the discovery of Nystatin, an antibiotic named for the New York State Laboratory where they worked. The patent process was completed in 1957 and handled by the Research Corporation, a private foundation that worked closely with Brown and Hazen to distribute about $13,000,000 in royalties over the following decades to fund scientific research. Among its other projects, the Brown-Hazen Fund financed grants and fellowships at Mount Holyoke College. Brown retired from the Division of Laboratories and Research in 1968. She was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the Squibb Award in Chemotherapy, honorary degrees from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Mount Holyoke College, and the Chemical Pioneer Award. She also taught Sunday school for many years at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Albany. Brown died on January 14, 1980 at the age of eighty-one in Albany.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Rachel Brown Papers consist of course records, writings, correspondence, memorabilia, an autograph album, biographical information, and photographs. Most of the collection consists of documents that reflect Brown's coursework as a student at Mount Holyoke College, 1916-1920. This material includes notebooks, notes, essays, assignments, and laboratory reports for courses in Biblical history and literature, chemistry, English literature, history, mathematics, philosophy and psychology, and physics. The collection also includes reports and copies of her M.S. thesis and Ph.D. dissertation that relate to her graduate work at the University of Chicago, 1920-1926. Most of the remaining material in the collection relates to Brown's collaboration with Elizabeth Lee Hazen and their discovery of the antibiotic Nystatin in 1950. This material includes correspondence, articles, and photographs pertaining to projects supported by the fund that Brown and Hazen established with income from the Nystatin patent. There are also congratulatory notes to Brown, certificates, medals, award nominations, lists of awards received, acceptance speeches, honorary degrees, and photographs of awards ceremonies all relating to Brown's achievements in science. Other information includes lists of Brown's publications, biographical articles, press releases, descriptions of Nystatin, formal photographs of Brown, and obituaries. There is also biographical information about Hazen, a formal photograph of her, and informal photographs of her with Brown. In addition, the collection includes Brown's scientific journal articles reflecting her research concerning pneumococcus and syphilis. The autograph album dates from circa 1914-circa 1920s and includes numerous autographs that appear to have been clipped from letters and other documents.

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Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Rachel Brown Papers, Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, South Hadley, MA.

History of the Collection

Additional Information
Contact Information
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075

Phone: (413) 538-2013
Fax: (413) 538-2370

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