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Ruth Emma Miller’s Research Advanced Immunology Research

Published on December 14, 2020

For a scientist and educator of significance in her own time, the historical record is light on Ruth Emma Miller. This, despite her considerable professional contributions to women’s medical education, and her research in the fields of immunology, pharmacognosy (plant-based medicines), and antibiotics during crucial years of their advancement.

Miller was born in Philadelphia, and attended Philadelphia College of Pharmacy for her bachelors and masters’ degrees. In 1934 she completed a PhD in bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania, and began a career dedicated to research, education, and service at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, her lifelong institutional home. Miller taught bacteriology and microbiology at the school, which was among the first in the nation to train women to be physicians, graduating thousands of female MDs prohibited from training elsewhere.

A lab full of scientists

Photo credit: Legacy Center Archives, Drexel University College of Medicine,

While accounts of Miller’s life are scarce, scholarly databases today still house her legacy through dozens of her monographs, in publications including Journal of Bacteriology,Journal of Immunology, Journal of the American Medical Women's Association, and American Journal of Clinical Pathology.

In 1954, Miller was elected as the first woman President of Eastern Pennsylvania’s branch of the American Society for Microbiology, and in 1961 she was appointed head of Woman’s Medical’s microbiology department after decades of teaching. Miller consulted for Philadelphia’s veterans’ hospitals throughout the 1950s and ’60s.

She was a horticulturalist, a parishioner of St. Andrew Church in Drexel Hill, and an aunt to 10. Retiring in 1968, she served on the board of PCP and received the school’s alumni award in 1972. 

Categories: Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, Alumni, Proven Everywhere, History, Bicentennial