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Lowe, Georgia Belle

Published onAug 20, 2021
Lowe, Georgia Belle

(Feb. 7, 1886 — Nov. 9, 1961)

Quick Facts

Belle Lowe was a culinary and scientific visionary, applying principles of chemistry to better understand the science of cooking and food preparation, and pioneering ISU’s undergraduate and graduate experimental cooking programs.


Georgia Belle Lowe (always called “Belle”) was born in 1886 near Utica, Missouri. She graduated from nearby Chillicothe High School, and obtained a teaching certificate in 1907 from the Kirksville State Normal School (now Truman State University). She continued her education at the University of Chicago, where she received a PhB in 1911 and returned for an MS in 1934. In 1957, Lowe received an honorary PhD from Iowa State College (now Iowa State University).

During World War I, Lowe took a position as an emergency home demonstration agent in Story County, Iowa. In 1918, Lowe was appointed Assistant Professor in the Household Science Department at Iowa State College. She was made a full professor in 1936, and, with the exception of one year spent as a food researcher at the Bureau of Home Economics in Washington, DC, she worked at Iowa State University until her retirement in 1956.

Lowe published numerous articles, extension publications, and booklets on a variety of topics, including “Use of Lard as a Household Fat” just before the outbreak of World War II, and “Pasteurization of Liquid Egg Products” shortly after. She was probably best known for her Experimental Cookery, which was published in 4 editions, and was used as a textbook at many American universities. Her scientific mindset pervaded her approach to teaching. She urged students to persevere, noting that “there is no such thing as a wrong result. Every result is right for the condition that produced it. It is up to you to find out why the unexpected happened.” In an interview marking her retirement from the school, Lowe noted that she enjoyed both her teaching and research roles. During her tenure, she guided 45 Masters students and 14 Doctoral students in their studies.

Lowe set “an example of hard work, intellectual honesty, and enthusiasm” as a teacher and as a researcher. Lowe was an accomplished culinary practitioner in both personal and professional arenas: she enjoyed cooking a roast or turkey for holiday parties for the department staff, but she also used those experiences to collect data which she “added to her studies of poultry.”

Students and colleagues admired her personal warmth and sense of fun – she loved swimming, color photography, was a sports buff and an avid outdoorsperson, as well as an engaged follower of world politics and events. She traveled extensively in Europe, making sure to study the markets and foodways of each country as she went. Her exploits appear in the Iowa Homemaker, where her research-oriented scientific mind is appreciated as well as her “refreshing” individualism. The student journalists documenting her travels included her admission that it had taken her months of planning to pack her wardrobe for the trip. She was beloved by her university students, but she also educated her own family members in cooking and baking: Lowe shared short films in which she teaches her two young grandnephews, dressed in cowboy suits, to bake their own birthday cakes.

Lowe also spent many hours working with other divisions and departments, including animal husbandry, horticulture, and poultry (perhaps turkeys were provided in exchange for valuable research data). She cooked and assessed the quality of meat from experimental animals, and evaluated fruits and vegetables raised in experimental conditions, using her data and observations to plan further research and experiments. This collaborative spirit enriched her own research as well as that of her colleagues and related departments.

Lowe’s work was widely recognized; she received the Poultry and Egg National Board’s Christie Award in 1938, including a $500 prize, for her outstanding contribution, “through research teaching or extension, in the interpretation of scientific results or prosecution of research dealing with determination, preparation, conservation or improvement of the nutritive properties of poultry and eggs." Lowe was a member of Omicron Nu; Iota Sigma Pi; Sigma Delta Epsilon; Phi Kappa Phi; Sigma Xi; Phi Upsilon Omicron; Mortar Board; the American Home Economics Association; and the Institute of Food Technologists.

As a tribute to her lasting contributions to food science at Iowa State University, one of the residential houses in North Friley Hall was named for her. Lowe House is home to 48 female-only students. One can only imagine that Lowe would be proud that her name appears on a center dedicated to welcoming the women of Iowa State as they begin their own academic careers.

Lowe’s retirement was not a long one; she survived just 5 years after her departure from Iowa State. During this time, she traveled extensively, including a world tour to visit her former students in the U.S. and abroad, to follow up with them on their projects and pursuits.

Lowe died in 1961 at her home in Madrid, Iowa and is buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery.

Selected Sources

Ferguson, Elizabeth S. and Ercel S. Eppright. A Century of Home Economics at Iowa State University: A proud past, a lively present, a future promise. Ames: The Iowa State University Home Economics Alumni Association, 1971.

Iowa State University Special Collections and University Archives. Belle Lowe Papers (1920-1961), finding aid.

Gregory, Betty. (1955) "Homemaker Salutes: Miss Belle Lowe," The Iowa Homemaker: Vol. 35 : No. 10, Article 4. Available at:

Redman, Joan (1954) "Belle Lowe Goes to Market," The Iowa Homemaker: Vol. 34 : No. 5 , Article 3. Available at:

“Women who made a Difference: Belle Lowe.” Todays Seeds for Tommorow’s Harvest: The Impact of Women Nutritionists. Archives of Women in Science and Engineering, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

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