Hyde, Ida

Hyde, PhD
Year Inducted: 
Ida Hyde
  • First woman admitted to the American Physiological Society
  • Third woman, and the first woman from the United States, to receive her doctorate from Heidelberg University in Germany
  • Creator of the KU Department of Physiology and its first Chair
  • First woman ever allowed to do research at Harvard Medical School
  • Inventor of a microclectrode for stimulating single cells, a breakthrough in neurophysiology
  • Endowed the Association of American University Women with the Ida H. Hyde International Fellowship

Gaining entrance into the world of scientific inquiry has been a difficult struggle for women historically.  One early pioneer in this struggle, Dr. Ida Hyde, spent her career at the University of Kansas and left a remarkable legacy.

Dr. Hyde’s field of specialty was physiology.  She arrived at KU in 1899 after receiving her doctoral degree with honors from Heidelberg University, which was a leading center of activity of scientific research.  Hyde was the third woman, and the first woman from the United States, to receive her doctorate from Heidelberg University.

Throughout her career, Dr. Hyde was subject to deliberate sex discrimination, making her scholarly pursuits particularly difficult.  Unsupportive of her educational desires, Hyde’s family refused to assist her in her education while contributing funds to her older brother’s collegiate career.  Under financial pressure, Hyde took 10 years to complete her undergraduate education, sometimes working as a public school teacher to make ends meet.  While at Heidelberg, the head of the physiology department forbade her to attend lecture or laboratory sessions.  Instead, for two years she used notes prepared for her by laboratory assistants.  After obtaining professional status, Dr. Hyde continued to be the victim of discrimination.  The Kansas Board of Regents, though they normally funded similar manuals, would not pay for the publication of a laboratory manual she wrote for her medical physiology classes.  Due to their refusal, Dr. Hyde financed the publication herself.  Pay equity with her male counterparts was certainly never a reality for Dr. Hyde.

Despite the obstacles, Dr. Hyde achieved many successes that distinguish her as a truly outstanding individual.  She created the KU Department of Physiology and served as its first chairperson.  Hyde designed her own equipment and supervised its construction.  She was a hardworking teacher who was devoted to her students; several photographs in the KU Archives show her picnicking at Potter’s Lake with her students.  On one occasion she had told her class to come prepared for a long laboratory session that would last through the dinner hour; when the students arrived the lab had been transformed into a dining hall and Hyde had prepared a dinner for them.

Dr. Hyde was the first woman admitted to the American Physiological Society.  She was also the first woman ever to do research at Harvard Medical School.  Hyde’s record of research and public service is impressive.  She was deeply concerned about public health and hygiene.  She also researched a wide variety of unusual phenomena from the effects of listening to music on blood pressure and the heart as measured by an electrocardiogram, to the result of oxygen deprivation on grasshoppers’ brains.  She even invented a microclectrode for stimulating single cells that was a breakthrough in the annals of neurophysiology.

In addition to her becoming a pioneering force in her field, she had a highly developed sense of commitment to other women that translated itself into action.  In 1927, she established a KU scholarship fund for women pursuing careers in the sciences.  She also gave Cornell, her undergraduate alma mater, a similar scholarship and endowed the Association of American University Women with the Ida H. Hyde International Fellowship.  More than 100 women have directly benefited from her generosity and commitment.

Dr. Hyde retired from KU in 1920 and led an active life until her death in 1945.  Through her important scientific research, contribution to KU, dedication to women, generous scholarship funds, and her life example, the presence of Dr. Ida Hyde continues to be a positive force that helps others in their search for excellence.

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