The name Alice Ball may not mean much to you, but this young chemist changed millions of lives in the early 1900s. Ball is the creator of the “Ball Method,” which was the most effective treatment for leprosy in the early 20th century. But the African American scientist wasn’t recognized for her work until 80 years later.
The new podcast, They Did That, aims to shine a much-deserved light on trailblazers who have been erased from history books because of who they were: women, people of color, the LBGTQ+ community and more as it shares about how their work has changed our lives for the better.
Journalist and broadcaster Takara Small created and hosts the series for Sony Music Entertainment's Somethin’ Else division, mixing narration and commentary to revisit the worlds of these stellar and often unknown minds.
“I have spent much of my career researching and studying incredible innovators whose accomplishments have been erased from history because of who they were,” says Small. “This podcast shares the stories of extraordinary people who built our modern world.”
In 1915, Bell became the first woman and first Black American to graduate with a master's degree from the College of Hawaii. She was also the university's first female and African American chemistry professor and conducted her life-changing research on its campus.
During the early 1900s, those suffering from leprosy were sent to Hawaii. Ball was approached by the Investigation Station of the U. S. Public Health Service in Hawaii to study chaulmoogra oil and how its chemical properties could better be used in leprosy treatment. Ball developed a way to make the oil injectable and more absorbed by the body. She was 23 at the time. While the next step would have been to publish her findings, Ball died a year later, at age 24. Her work was then presented by a white male colleague, who failed to give her the credit she deserved.
They Did That future episodes feature Big Momma Thornton who recorded ‘Hound Dog’ three years before Elvis Presley topped the charts. Her version is considered an anthem for female Black empowerment.
Find They Did That on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.