EXHIBITS: Mother of the Jumping Gene

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Science  23 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5547, pp. 1623
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5547.1623a

Geneticist Barbara McClintock's studies of corn plants revealed that genes can move around on chromosomes and won her a Nobel Prize in 1983, when she was 81. Along the way, however, she battled skepticism toward her work and barriers to women in science. When she began her studies at Cornell University in 1919, for example, women were forbidden from majoring in genetics, so she earned her Ph.D. in botany.

A new section of the National Library of Medicine's Profiles in Science site explores McClintock's life through photos, letters, lecture notes, and other documents. A selection of some 50 academic publications stretches from a 1926 article on polyploidy (chromosome multiplication) in corn to a 1971 paper on the control of gene expression. McClintock's correspondence reveals her struggle to find a place in academia. Long-term postdocs take heart: Even this great geneticist didn't find a permanent job until she was 40.


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