Menachem Mendel

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She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.

There’s a must-read obituary in today’s New York Times. Rosalyn S. Yalow won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1977. She was the product of a Bronx public school who had to overcome adversity throughout much of her career.

Dr. Yalow, a product of New York City schools and the daughter of parents who never finished high school, graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York at the age of 19 and was the college’s first physics major. Yet she struggled to be accepted for graduate studies. In one instance, a skeptical Midwestern university wrote: “She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.”

Read the obituary for a discussion of the important discoveries that she was a part of.

Another interesting aspect of her life was how she and her collaborator in research, Solomon A. Berson, encountered resistance to their new theories.

Their early work met with resistance. Scientific journals initially refused to publish their discovery of insulin antibodies, a finding fundamental to radioimmunoassay. The discovery, in 1956, challenged the accepted understanding of the immune system; few scientists believed antibodies could recognize a molecule as small as insulin. Dr. Yalow and Dr. Berson had to delete a reference to antibodies before The Journal of Clinical Investigation accepted their paper, and Dr. Yalow did not forget the incident; she included the rejection letter as an exhibit in her Nobel lecture.

Sometimes people who are supposedly critical scholars can be as orthodox as anyone else.

3 Responses to “She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.”

  1. 1
    DF:

    I dont trust a word the NYT says, particualry when they are glorifying feminsm. I should like to see the full text of the “skeptical Midwestern university”. That paper is not above selective quotation, when it wants to fit with its own narrative.

  2. 2
    Menachem Mendel:

    The source for the letter was Yalow herself. If you read the whole obit you’ll she that she included the letter in an exhibit when she was awarded the Noble prize. I also saw her mention it in something that she herself wrote which I am unable to find online at the moment.

  3. 3
    DF:

    You are right, I should have read the obit first. But now that I have, I see it makes my point. The letter writer was simply explaining why he felt she would have a tough time getting a job – because she was a woman, she was Jewish, etc. He wasnt stating that he himself thought those facts would disqualify her, only he beleived that others would believe them to be disqualifications.

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