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Margaret Dorothy Foster (March 4, 1895 – November 5, 1970) was an American chemist. She was the first female chemist to work for the United States Geological Survey, and was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project.

Margaret D. Foster
Margaret D. Foster, in Lab, 4 October 1919.jpg
working in the lab in 1919
Born(1895-03-04)March 4, 1895
DiedNovember 5, 1970(1970-11-05) (aged 75)
Alma materIllinois College,
George Washington University,
American University
Known forfirst female chemist to work on the United States Geological Survey,
Manhattan Project Chemistry and Physics Section
Scientific career
InstitutionsUnited States Geological Survey;
Manhattan Project



She was born in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was James Edward Foster and mother was Minnie (McAuley) Foster. She graduated from Illinois College, George Washington University and from American University, with a Ph.D.[1]

Beginning in 1918, she became the first female chemist to work on the United States Geological Survey, developing ways to detect minerals within naturally occurring bodies of water.[2] In 1942, she worked on the Manhattan Project in the Chemistry and Physics Section, under Roger C. Wells, developing two new techniques of quantitative analysis, one for uranium and one for thorium,[3] as well as two new ways to separate the two elements.[2] Upon her return to the Geological Survey after the war, she researched the chemistry of clay minerals and micas.[2] She retired in March 1965.[1]

She died at Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Spring, Maryland.[1]


  • Foster, Margaret D. (1938). "The chemist at work. IX. The chemist in the water resources laboratory". Journal of Chemical Education. 15 (5): 228. doi:10.1021/ed015p228.


  1. ^ a b c Fahey, Joseph J. (March–April 1971). "Memorial of Margaret D. Foster" (PDF). The American Mineralogist. 56: 686–690. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Ruth H. Howes, Caroline L. Herzenberg (2003). Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project. Temple University Press. pp. 91–2. ISBN 9781592131921.
  3. ^ D, Foster, Margaret; sysadmin (1 January 1919). "Margaret D. Foster (1895-1970)".

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