Barbara McClintock was an American botanist who was born on June 16, 1902. McClintock’s father was also a physician and she, as a child, has witnessed her father’s independence of mind and became a scientist herself. After graduating from highschool, she enrolled as a biology major at Cornell University in 1919. She received a master’s degree two years later and she specialized in cytology, genetics and zoology in 1927. During going to school she began the study that would occupy her entire professional career: the chromosomal analysis of corn (maize). She used a microscope and a staining technique that allowed her to examine, identify, and describe individual corn chromosomes. In 1931, Barbara and her colleague Harriet Creighton, published “A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-over in Zea mays” a paper that stated that chromosomes formed the basis of genetics. Based on her experiments and publications during the 1930s, McClintock was elected vice president of the Genetics Society of America in 1939 and president of the Genetics Society in 1944. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1933 to study in Germany, but she left early because of the rise of Nazism. McClintock moved to Long Island, New York, to work at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1941 and she spent the rest of her professional life there. McClintock’s work was ahead of its time and was for many years considered too radical—or was simply ignored—by her fellow scientists. She stopped publishing the results of her work, but she continued her research. In the late 1960s and ’70s, after biologists had determined that the genetic material was DNA, members of the scientific community began to verify her early findings. When she was finally recognized, McClintock was inundated with the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. She was the first woman to be the sole winner of this award. After a life with full of scientific accomplishments, Barbara McClintock died on September 2, 1992.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.