Notable Women in the Physical Sciences: A Biographical Dictionary

By Benjamin F. Shearer; Barbara S. Shearer | Go to book overview

continuous fifteen-year history. The Ellen H. Richards Institute was set up as a department of the College in 1940, with Dr. Pauline Mack as director, in order to continue these unique studies.

Her work led to the development of a measuring technique to determine the mineral content of bones using X-rays. This provided a way to analyze the calcium content in the living human skeleton and made it possible to evaluate an individual's calcium needs for proper growth and function. In recognition of this work, Mack received the Francis P. Garvan Gold Medal in 1950. (This honor is presented by the American Chemical Society annually to one American woman chemist for outstanding achievement.)

After thirty years at Penn State, Mack decided to accept a position as the dean of the College of Household Arts and Sciences at Texas State College for Women, now Texas Woman's University (TWU). Her husband was looking forward to his retirement in Texas, but he died in 1952 shortly before they were to move. Mack went to Texas alone to start a new life.

In 1962, Mack decided to give up her administrative duties as dean to concentrate on research. Under her leadership the TWU Research Institute conducted studies in food, nutrition, clothing textiles, and textile technology. She was most taken with the work she did with NASA on both the Gemini and Apollo programs. Here she had the opportunity to study calcium loss from bones during the periods of inactivity experienced by astronauts during extended space missions. The results of her work were used in planning NASA's Skylab program and earned her the Silver Snoopy Award in 1970. This award was created by the astronauts for recognition of people who had done exemplary work for the space program. Mack had developed personal friendships with several astronauts including Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Wally Schirra; she was the only woman to receive the award.

Until the age of 79, Mack maintained a full-time work schedule. III health forced her into semi-retirement, but she was still able to spend a few hours a day on the work she so enjoyed. She died in a Texas nursing home on October 22, 1974, at the age of 83, leaving no known survivors.

Pauline Beery Mack excelled at many things during her life and was nationally known for her work. She was a woman of energy and charm who loved teaching and, especially, chemistry. It was important to her that chemistry be seen as applicable to everyday life and as a career path within anyone's reach.


Notes
1.
Much of the material for this essay comes from a photocopy of Warren B. Mack , "Biographical Material about Pauline Beery Mack, Director of the HelenH. Richards Institute, Professor of Textile Chemistry,"

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