Women in Science Wednesday is THL’s biweekly blog where we feature a female scientist and her intellectual contributions to STEM.
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921-2011)
“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you’re learning, you’re not old.”
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was born in New York City in 1921, and always had a passion for the mathematics and science. After her undergraduate studies at Hunter College, she entered University of Illinois’ College of Engineering Physics Department–the only woman among 400 men. She received her Ph.D. in nuclear physics and then after a few research jobs, she started working at Bronx Veterans’ Hospital laboratory. There, she helped develop the radioimmunoassay technique (RIA), which uses radioisotopes to measure levels of tiny amounts of hormones in the the human blood system. RIA revolutionized medicine. Its many uses include drug detection, blood bank screening, early cancer detection, measurement of growth hormone levels, tracking of the leukemia virus, diagnosis and treatment of peptic ulcers, and research with neurotransmitters. She won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1977 and was the second American women ever to be so honored.
Throughout her life, Dr. Yalow experienced discrimination as a woman. Yet she persevered and proved herself as a brilliant physicist. After winning the Nobel Prize she said, “I wasn’t handed college or graduate school or anything else on a silver platter. I had to work very hard, but I did it because I wanted to. That’s the real key to happiness.”
Read Magnificent Minds by Pendred Noyce to learn about other inspiring women in science, along with Remarkable Minds, which features Rosalyn Sussman Yalow and will be released in September, 2015.