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Mary Ann Booth: Photomicroscopist


Mary Ann Allard Booth was born on September 8, 1843 to Rhoda and Samuel Colton Booth of Longmeadow. She was a direct descendant of the infamous Longmeadow resident “Marchant” Colton, a wealthy merchant and ship owner in the 18th century. Her family genealogy can be traced back to Englishman William Boothe in 1275. Samuel Booth, a farmer, was also well known as a geologist and mineralogist. His large collection was donated to the Springfield Museums after his death in 1895, and is still on display today.


As a child Mary Ann suffered from “chronic invalidism,” likely Polio (infantile paralysis). She was educated in the Longmeadow public schools and Wilbraham Academy. She later began a great self-directed study of science. In 1877 she obtained her first microscope and began studying plant and insect life. Mary Ann eventually took up photography and adapted the microscope to the camera and embarked upon her work in the nascent field of photomicroscopy and was selling her microscopy slides by 1884.



As an amateur scientist she gained international recognition. At the time very few women achieved renown in the scientific community. 



In 1885 she received first prize at the New Orleans Exposition and a medal the the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. Ms. Booth gained further celebrity in assisting the U.S. Surgeon General in 1907-08 in combatting the Bubonic Plague in San Francisco through photomicroscopic documentation of the the germ-bearing fleas that transmitted the plague from rats. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society of London, the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, the New York Academy of Science, the American Microscopical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was the first female recipient of the Order of William Pynchon. It was said that she had the largest private collection of parasites in the country. She wrote scientific books and pamphlets and lectured on parasites.



After the death of her father in 1895 Mary Ann moved to Dartmouth St in Springfield.


 In 1901 she was the first woman in Springfield to own an automobile. Her first automobile was steam powered and a subsequent car was electric.




Mary Ann never married and lived independently in a home she owned outright. Census data shows she hired a live-in servant or companion. On September 16, 1922 she died of “apoplexy” (stroke) in her yard. She left an estate worth $91,314 equivalent to $1,672,000 today. For more on Mary Ann Allard Booth further details please check out https://antiqueslides.net/mary-ann-booth-american-woman-microscopist-scientist/ and http://microscopist.net/BoothMA.html

 

Resources

  1. Boston Herald

  2. Springfield Republican

  3. Longmeadow Historical Society

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