Lucy Weston Pickett '25, Mary Lyon Professor 1930–1968

Lucy Pickett was a distinguished member of the Mount Holyoke Chemistry Department from 1930–1968. The Lucy Pickett lectureship was established in her honor by her students, friends and colleagues at the time of her retirement. Since 1974, at her request, the department has chosen to honor outstanding women scientists with this lectureship.

Born in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1904, Lucy Pickett was a 1925 graduate of Mount Holyoke College and held a Master’s degree from here (1927), a Doctorate from the University of Illinois (1930) and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Ripon College (1958).

She joined the faculty of Mount Holyoke College in 1930 and by 1945 was Professor of Chemistry. She was one of the first two professors to be named Mary Lyon Professor, a rank no longer used at the College, and she also held the title of Camille and Henry Dreyfus Chair in Chemistry at Mount Holyoke. She was the recipient of numerous fellowships, two of which led to study abroad at the Royal Institute in London and the University of Liege in Belgium.

Her research in ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy of organic molecules was supported by grants from the Office of Naval Research, the Research Corporation (one of its first grants, dating from 1949), the National Science Foundation, the Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society and the Esso Foundation.

In 1957, she joined Emma Carr (1937) and Mary Sherrill (1947) as a Mount Holyoke College recipient of the Francis P. Garvan Medal of the American Chemical Society, an award that recognizes “distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists, citizens of the United States.”

We would close this brief biography with her citation: “...for her outstanding and painstaking investigation of the far ultraviolet absorption spectra of important prototype molecules and for her contributions to the interpretation of these spectra in relation to the structures of the molecules. Her work is characterized by wise selection of objectives, accompanied by critical judgment and meticulous care in the use of pure compounds and in development and use of thorough and accurate experimental techniques.”

Lucy Pickett died on November 23, 1997 in Bradenton, Florida. She is sorely missed by her friends and colleagues.

(Image from the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.)