Harriet Hardy Interview 1988 APHA Occupational Health and Safety Section Award

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An interview with Harriet Hardy, on being awarded the 1988 Alice Hamilton Award by the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). Dr. Harriet L. Hardy was pioneer in occupational medicine, colleague and friend of Dr. Alice Hamilton and the first woman to become a full professor at Harvard Medical School. She was committed to social reform and hoped science would solve workplace hazards and improve the well-being of workers. Dr. developed an early interest in toxicology and environmentally related illness. Her investigation of respiratory illness among factory workers in Lynn and Salem, Mass., in the mid-1940’s led to the discovery that they had come down with berylliosis, an often fatal disease caused by exposure to the light metal beryllium. She set up a registry of beryllium illness at the Massachusetts General Hospital that became a model for tracking other occupational hazards and establishing guidelines for their control. In 1947, Dr. Hardy created an occupational medicine clinic at the hospital and remained its director until she retired in 1971. Dr. Hardy also led the occupational medical service at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge for more than 20 years and advised the institute on safety considerations relating to its first nuclear reactor. Over her career, she worked with the Atomic Energy Commission, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, United Mine Workers, and Coal Workers’ Safety Board. Alice Hamilton invited her to help revise her textbook Industrial Toxicology. Harriet Louise Hardy was born in Arlington, Massachusetts in 1905. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1928, received her medical degree from Cornell University in 1932, and went on to train as an intern and resident at Philadelphia General Hospital. She died in 1993, five years after this interview, at the age of 87. Her autobiography, Challenging Man-Made Disease, was published in 1983. In 1962 she received the highest honor in occupational medicine, the William S. Knudsen Award, and in 1974 she received the Browning Award from the American Public Health Association. For more on her life and work, read http://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_138.html. The OHS Section is one of the oldest within the American Public Health Association (APHA), begun in 1914. The Section represents a multitude of disciplines from medicine, nursing, and industrial hygiene to epidemiology, environmental health, statistics, community organizing, teaching, history, law and journalism. The Section provides leadership and expertise on occupational health matters, recognizing the intrinsic link between the work environment, and the health and safety of families, communities and the environment at large. Thanks to Kathy Rest and Buck Cameron who conducted and filmed the interview. Thanks to Craig Slatin for making the posting of this interview possible.



Dr. Harriet Hardy should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work defending workers and calling out the industrialists who deny the diseases she discovered. Today there is no admittance of Acute Beryllium Disease which she discovered.

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