Featured History: Dr. Rosalyn Yalow

yalow portrait

This month’s Featured History exhibit focuses on Dr. Rosalyn Yalow, recipient of half of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Medicine for her work in developing radioimmunoassay for peptide hormones — a feat the Nobel Commission described as “a series of brilliant, classical papers” featuring “a spectacular combination of immunology, isotope research, mathematics, and physics.”

The Templeton Library exhibit includes an abridged excerpt from Dr. Yalow’s entry in Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1977. While the exhibit was too small to include one of my favourite quotes from the original text, I’ll copy it here to whet your appetite for the rest of Dr. Yalow’s story. It describes an experience she had as a graduate student at the University of Illinois.

I was delighted to receive a straight A in two of the courses, an A in the lecture half of the course in Optics and an A- in its laboratory. The Chairman of the Physics Department, looking at this record, could only say, “That A- confirms that women do not do well at laboratory work.” But I was no longer a stubborn, determined child, but rather a stubborn, determined graduate student. The hard work and subtle discrimination were of no moment.

If you would like to read the full entry, it’s available on the Nobel Foundation’s website. While you’re there, be sure to also read Dr. Yalow’s Nobel Banquet speech. Other high-quality information on Dr. Yalow’s life and career is available through the American Chemical Society and the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

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Photo credit: Public domain portrait by U.S. Information Agency through Wikimedia Commons.

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