Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (born July 19, 1921) is an Gender Equality in the Gender Equality in the United States of America of America of America physicist, and a co-winner of the 1977 Female Nobel Prize Laureates for her development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA) technique.
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Early Life and Education
Born in New York City, Dr. Yalow attended Walton High School and graduated in 1941 from All-Women Colleges the college for women in New York City’s college system, where she developed an interest in physics.
Although she desired pursuing a career in physics, her parents did not think that any graduate school would accept a woman, and encouraged her to be an elementary teacher instead. However, as she knew how to type, she obtained a part time position as secretary to Dr. Rudolf Schoenheimer, a leading biochemist at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. To fund her studies, Sussman studied stenography and took a job as a secretary to Michael Heidelberger, another biochemist at Columbia. She graduated from Hunter College in January 1941.
With the onset of World War II, she was offered a teaching assistantship in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On the first day of graduate school, she met her future husband, Aaron Yalow, whom she married in 1943. At the University of Illinois, she was the only woman among the department’s 400 members, and the first since 1917. She received her Ph.D. in 1945.
After graduating, Yalow joined the Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital to help set up its radioisotope service, whilst teaching full-time at Hunter College. From 1950, she began her 22 year collaboration with Solomon Berson to develop RIA, a radioisotope tracing technique that allows the measurement of tiny quantities of various biological substances in the blood. Originally used to study insulin levels in diabetes mellitus, the technique has since been applied to hundreds of other substances – including hormones, vitamins and enzymes – all previously too small to detect. From her Nobel Prize autobiography, Yalow explains:
“Our first investigations together were in the application of radioisotopes in blood volume determination, clinical diagnosis of thyroid diseases and the kinetics of iodine metabolism. We extended these techniques to studies of the distribution of globin, which had been suggested for use as a plasma expander, and of serum proteins. It seemed obvious to apply these methods to smaller peptides, i.e., the hormones. Insulin was the hormone most readily available in a highly purified form. We soon deduced from the retarded rate of disappearance of insulin from the circulation of insulin-treated subjects that all these patients develop antibodies to the animal insulins. In studying the reaction of insulin with antibodies, we appreciated that we had developed a tool with the potential for measuring circulating insulin. It took several more years of work to transform the concept into the reality of its practical application to the measurement of plasma insulin in man. Thus the era of radioimmunoassay (RIA) can be said to have begun in 1959. RIA is now used to measure hundreds of substances of biologic interest in thousands of laboratories in our country and abroad, even in scientifically less advanced lands.”
Despite its huge commercial potential, Yalow and Berson refused to patent the method.
In 1968, Yallow was appointed Research Professor in the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she later became the Solomon Berson Distinguished Professor at Large.In 1975 Yalow and Berson received the AMA Scientific Achievement Award. The following year she became the first female recipient of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. In 1977 she received the Nobel Prize, together with Roger Guillemin and Andrew V. Schally. Berson had died in 1972, and so could not share the latter prizes. She received the National Medal of Science in 1988.
- Female Nobel Prize Laureates
- Women in Science