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Physiologist Ida Henrietta Hyde was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1857. Her family moved to Chicago in 1870. At a time when few women were encouraged to enter college, much less study in scientific fields, Hyde entered Cornell University in 1888, against her parents' wishes. While she studied, she supported herself by teaching school, and in 1891, she earned a bachelor's degree in biology. It took her just three years to complete the degree.
Hyde pursued graduate studies at Bryn Mawr college in Pennsylvania. While at Bryn Mawr, she became the first female researcher at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Her work at Woods Hole caught the attention of a professor at Strasbourg University in France, who offered to accept it for a doctoral dissertation. At the time Strasbourg, however, had a strict "no women" policy. The professor, Dr. Goette, helped secure permission for Hyde to study at Heidelberg University in Germany instead. Though she was not allowed to attend lectures or laboratories, she became the first American woman to graduate with a doctoral degree from Heidelburg, in 1896.
After completing her studies, Hyde became the first woman researcher at Harvard Medical School. At Harvard, she published a paper that appeared in the first American Journal of Physiology. Next Hyde became the first female member of the American Physiological Society.
Hyde's initial research focused on investigations of the breathing mechanism of the horseshoe crab and the grasshopper. She also investigated the respiratory center of the skate, amphibians, and mammals. During the course of her research she invented the microelectrode, a device used to deliver electrical or chemical stimuli to a cell and to record the electrical activity from an individual cell. The microelectrode has been said to have revolutionized neurophysiology.
In 1899, Kansas University's Chancellor Francis H. Snow asked Hyde to come to the college to help build its medical school. She did, and there she founded the UniversityÌs Department of Physiology (now called the Department of Molecular Biology) and served as Professor and Department Chair until her retirement in 1920. While working for the University of Kansas, Hyde continued her research at Woods Hole during the summers, studying the physiology of marine animals. She also authored a memoir of her experiences as a pioneering woman in the sciences, entitled "Before Women Were Human."
In 1928, Hyde established the Ida H. Hyde Scholarship for women in science, which is awarded annually at Kansas University. She died in 1945 at the age of 91.