Rosalyn S. Yalow
(1921 - 2011)
Rosalyn S. Yalow became the second woman to ever win the Nobel
Prize in medicine, 1977. Her achievement was the development of
RIA, an application of nuclear physics in clinical medicine that makes
it possible for scientists to use radiotropic tracers to measure the
concentration of hundreds of pharmacologic and biologic substances
in the blood and other fluids of the human body and in animals and plants.
She invented this technique in 1959 to measure the amount of insulin
in the blood of adult diabetics.
She was born on July 19, 1921, in New York City, of
Jewish parents, Clara and Simon Sussman. She attended the New York City
public school system and in Walton High School she was encouraged by
her chemistry teacher to pursue a career in science. She graduated Hunter
College and accepted a teaching fellowship in physics at the University
of Illinois. In 1945, she became the second woman to receive a Ph.D.
degree in physics from Illinois.
She met A. Aaron Yalow, a fellow physics student who
was the son of a rabbi and
they were married on June 6, 1943. They returned to New York where she
accepted a lecturer's post in physics, which she held until 1950. During
this period, they had two children, Benjamin and Elanna.
After World War II, the Veterans Administration was interested in
doing research to explore the possible use of radioactive substances in
the diagnosis of treatment and disease. The VA Hospital in the Bronx
was chosen as one of the sites where research would be conducted. Dr.
Yalow, who was a consultant in this facility, was hired to work on nuclear
physics in 1947. In 1950, she was appointed physicist and assistant
chief of the hospital's radioisotope service.
Dr Yalow was appointed to higher and more responsible positions
at the VA Hospital during the years. In 1976, she became the first
woman to win the Albert Lasker Prize for Basic Medical Research.
During the years, Dr. Yalow was recognized for her achievements with
numerous prestigious awards from organizations, societies, universities, etc.
Dr. Rosalyn Yalow was always aware of her role as a woman and
as a Jew. After she received the Nobel Prize, the "Ladies Home Journal"
wanted her to receive a special woman's award. She politely refused
the offer, which she considered to be as a "ghetto" citation given her
because she was a brilliant woman, not a brilliant scientist.
During her hectic life as a scientist and as the wife and mother of a
family, she managed to host a five-part dramatic series on the life of
Madame Curie, for the Public Broadcasting Service in 1976. She has
put in long hours each week at the VA. Hospital and then come home
to her kosher kitchen to prepare meals for her family. Dr. Yalow displayed energy and enthusiasm at all times for work and family.
Dr. Rosalyn Yalow was a beacon and guide for young women in
achieving position and recognition in life. She demonstrated through
her life that it is possible for a woman to be an outstanding professional as well as have a good family in their lifetime.
Dr. Yalow died on May 30, 2011, at age 89.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American
heroism included in Jewish
Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish
Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody
of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New
York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.