Women’s Day Special: Women who won the Physiology Nobel

Today, on International Women’s Day, billions of women around the globe voice their concern for an equal work-space. At the college level, women score better marks than men. Enter the research institutes, and the ratio is highly skewed in favour of men. Why this disparity?

Since the inception of Nobel prize in 1901, 104 Nobels have been awarded to 205 people (as of March, 2015) for their brilliance in Medicine (or Physiology). Of these, only 10 Nobels were awarded to 11 women.

Their work inspires millions of women for a future in biological sciences research. Click on the names to read their Nobel lectures.

  1. Gerty Radnitz Cori (1947) — She and her husband, Carl Ferdinand Cori, discovered enzymes that convert glycogen into lactic acid in the muscles and back again into glycogen in the liver. The Cori cycle is named after them.
  2. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1977) — She developed radioimmunoassay technique to use radioactive isotopes to measure concentrations of hormones, viruses, vitamins, drugs etc.
  3. Barbara McClintock (1983) —  She studied transposons in maize, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Also, she came up with a cure for African sleeping sickness.
  4. Rita Levi-Montalcini (1986) – She co-discovered the nerve growth factor in 1954. The factor stimulates growth of nerve cells and is important for neurodegenerative diseases.
  5. Gertrude Elion (1988) — Inventor of the anti-leukemia drug 6-Mercapto purine (or Imuran) which blocks body’s immune response against foreign tissues. She is the only woman inventor inducted into the inventor’s hall of fame.
  6. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (1995) — Her studies on fruit flies explained the inheritance of birth defects in humans.
  7. Linda Buck (2004) — Alongwith Richard Axel, discovered the functioning of the olfactory system. They explained how people can recognize and remember more than 10,000 different odours.
  8. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi (2008) — She co-discovered the HIV virus, alongwith her colleague Montagnier.
  9. Elizabeth H. Blackburn & Carol W. Greider (2009) — They, alongwith Jack Szosstak, discovered telomerase and the mechanism by which it protects chromosomes.
  10. May-Britt Moser (2014) — She, along with her husband, Edvard Moser, and John O Keefe, explained how grid and place cells in our brains help us navigate.

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