The obituary of Angela Hartley Brodie in The Wall Street Journal grabbed my attention as the headline reads “Scientist Paved Way for Breast-Cancer Treatment.” Dr. Brodie laid the groundwork for aromatase inhibitors that block estrogen and shrink breast tumors or prevent a recurrence. Dr. Brodie follows in a long line of research scientist she-roes who made pivotal scientific discoveries. I am pleased to profile some of them in this article. Match the woman with her accomplishment:
____ 1. An anatomist and immunologist, she made significant contributions to the understanding of the lymph system.
____ 2. She discovered X and Y chromosomes which lead to sex determination.
____ 3. Her research has focused on theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics.
____ 4. The first person to clone HIV, enabling the development of therapies for the treatment of AIDS.
____ 5. Her discovery of a method to extract clotting factor from human plasma has led to significant breakthroughs in the treatment of hemophilia.
A. Nettie Stevens
B. Florence Sabin
C. Judith Graham Pool
D. Shirley Ann Jackson
E. Flossie Wong-Staal
The discoverer of X and Y chromosomes that determine whether offspring are male or female, geneticist Nettie Stevens had to contend with the many obstacles facing women of her day. Born during the Civil War (1861), Stevens followed the only real education path for women – that of becoming a teacher. However, her love for science pursued her, and at age 39, after completing additional education at Stanford University, Stevens was able to begin her scientific career. She completed her Ph.D. in 1903 and published her seminal paper on sex determination in 1905. Although her life was cut short by breast cancer, Stevens contributed to the fields of genetics, cytology, and embryology through her 38 publications. Stevens has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
The first woman to hold a full professorship at Johns Hopkins University, anatomist and immunologist Florence Sabin became the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1925. Also the first woman to head a department at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Sabin made profound contributions to the understanding of the lymph system, wrote the book used as the standard text for years on the structure of a newborn baby’s brain, and conducted research on blood vessels and tuberculosis. After her retirement, she returned to Colorado and led reforms of the public health system. Sabin has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Physiologist Judith Graham Pool discovered a method of extracting clotting factor from human plasma. This extraction led to the ability to formulate cryoprecipitate which enabled significant breakthroughs in the treatment of hemophilia which can now be categorized as a manageable disease. Pool pursued her education at the University of Chicago and Hobart College. Many of her discoveries occurred during her affiliation with Stanford University. She is memorialized by the National Hemophilia Foundation through its Judith Graham Pool Postdoctoral Research Fellowships which were established in 1972. Pool worked to advance science as a career for women and co-founded the Association for Women in Science before her untimely death at age 56.
Today the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, nuclear physicist Shirley Ann Jackson was the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in any field from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1973). Jackson has been a pioneering trailblazer throughout her career. Her early research focused on topics within theoretical physics, solid state and quantum physics, and optical physics. Later, she served as a professor at Rutgers University and Chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Among her many honors, Jackson has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Virologist and molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal was the first person to clone human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) thus paving the way for proving that it was the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This also enabled the development of therapies for the treatment of AIDS. The first female in her family to pursue higher education, Wong-Staal received her undergraduate and graduate education at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA). Her work on HIV occurred while she was employed at the National Cancer Institute. After serving as a professor at the University of California – San Diego for many years, Wong-Staal retired and started a drug development company that is currently working to improve treatments for Hepatitis C. In 1994, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academies.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These research scientists are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.
(Answers 1-B, 2-A, 3-D, 4-E, 5-C)