Birthday July 19
Who was Rosalyn Sussman Yalow?
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was an American medical physicist, and co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique.
Five Facts about Rosalyn Sussman Yalow:
- Was the second woman, and the first American-born woman, to be awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
- Learned how to read before Kindergarten
- Was the only woman faculty (out of 400) when offered a teaching position at the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois
- Was the first woman in 2 decades to attend or teach at the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois
Inspirational Quotes from Rosalyn Sussman Yalow
“Perhaps the earliest memories I have are of being a stubborn, determined child. Through the years my mother has told me that it was fortunate that I chose to do acceptable things, for if I had chosen otherwise no one could have deflected me from my path.”
“I was excited about achieving a career in physics. My family, being more practical, thought the most desirable position for me would be as an elementary school teacher.”
“We must believe in ourselves as no one else will believe in us, we must match our expectations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”
“The excitement of learning separates youth from old age. As long as you're learning you're not old.”
“We bequeath to you, the next generation, our knowledge but also our problems. While we still live, let us join hands, hearts and minds to work together for their solution so that your world will be better than ours and the world of your children even better.”
“We cannot expect in the immediate future that all women who seek it will achieve full equality of opportunity. But if women are to start moving towards that goal, we must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed.”
“New truths become evident when new tools become available.”
“There is at present in the United States a powerful activist movement that is anti-intellectual, anti-science, and anti-technology. If we are to have faith that mankind will survive and thrive on the face of the Earth, we must depend on the continued revolutions brought about by science.”
“We must believe in ourselves or no one will believe in us.”
“If you ever have a new idea, and it's really new, you have to expect that it won't be widely accepted immediately. It's a long hard process.”
Keep Active Young
Sign up for FREE Printable Activities delivered straight to your inbox.
Rosalyn was born into and raised in a Jewish household. In June 1943, she married fellow student Aaron Yalow, who was the son of a rabbi. They had two children, Benjamin and Elanna Yalow. Rosalyn was not a believer in "balancing her career with her home life,” but rather, incorporated her home life wherever she could into her work life.
Though committed to her family and a strong proponent of traditional values and a desire to be a homemaker, Rosalyn was also a strong supporter of women in science. However, she never directly advocated for organizations to better the treatment of women in fields of science and did not consider herself a feminist.
Her great desire to be a physicist spurned her on to higher education, ultimately resulting in her being accepted as a teacher and researcher in the field of physics. As such, she became a role model to other women interested in pursuing similar careers.
Eventually she became a consultant with the Veteran’s Administration where she devoted her time to full-time researching. Together with Solomon Berson, they developed radioimmunoassay (RIA), which is a radioisotope tracing technique that allows the measurement of tiny quantities of biological substances in human blood. Originally this was used to study insulin levels in diabetes mellitus, but the technique has since also been applied to hundreds of other substances – including hormones, vitamins and enzymes – all too small to detect previously.
Without their contributions to this important work, it would be nearly impossible to diagnose various hormone-related conditions and endocrine diseases like type one diabetes. And despite its huge commercial potential, Rosalyn and her partner, Solomon, refused to patent their method.
Rosalyn was both a mentor and a role model to other women. She contributed so much to science and has been an enduring inspiration.
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award
Cressy Morrison Award in Natural Sciences of the N.Y. Academy of Sciences
Scientific Achievement Award of the American Medical Association
Koch Award of the Endocrine Society; Gairdner Foundation International Award
American College of Physicians Award for distinguished contributions in science as related to medicine
Eli Lilly Award of the American Diabetes Association
First William S. Middleton Medical Research Award of the VA
Five honorary doctorates