Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Allene Jeanes 2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductee


February, 2017
Excerpted from LAS article by Logan Weeter

Allene Rosalind Jeanes Natinal Inventors Hall of Fame The late Allene Rosalind Jeanes (PhD, ’38) will be inducted posthumously into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in May for, in part, creating a blood plasma extender used by medics in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Born in 1906 in Waco, Texas, Jeanes was a chemistry Instructor as U of I from 1936 to 1937 before receiving her PhD in organic chemistry in 1938. From 1941-76, Jeanes worked as a chemical researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northern Regional Research Lab (NRRL) in Peoria, Illinois, now known as the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research.

According to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, “As a result of her research and innovation, the NRRL became a leader in carbohydrate research.” Jeanes’ research focus was natural polysaccharides, such as cellulose, starch and dextran. Jeanes was able to use bacteria-contaminated root beer to revolutionarily isolate dextrose-producing bacteria.

Because of this discovery, dextran was able to be mass-produced, and then used in a dextran-based blood plasma extender, used by medics in the Korean and Vietnam wars. This work made Jeanes the first woman to receive the Distinguished Service Award by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jeanes was also on the research team that developed xanthan gum, another polysaccharide, commonly used as a food thickening agent.

Jeanes had no shortage of notable awards for her research. In 1956, she received the Garvan Medal from the American Chemical Society for her work in dextran production. In 1962, the U.S. Civil Service Commission gave Jeanes the Federal Woman’s Service Award. In 1968, the Superior Service Award from the United States Department of Agriculture was awarded to Jeanes and the entire Xanthan gum team, and in 1999, she was posthumously inducted into the ARS Science Hall of Fame.

Jeanes passed away in 1995 in Urbana, Illinois.