Dr. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow was born on July 19, 1921 in Bronx, New York. She is Jewish and grew up in New York. Her mother, Clara Zipper, was born in Germany and came to America at the age of four. Her father, Simon Sussman, was born in New York. Neither of her parents had a high school education, however, she and her older brother both surpassed them in receiving a higher education. On her first day of graduate school she meet her future husband Aaron Yalow. He was also beginning graduate study in physics at that time. In 1943 they married and eventually had two children Benjamin and Elanna.
She attended New York's Hunter College, graduating in physics and chemistry. She was rejected from Pudue Universities graduate program, because of her gender and being Jewish. At this time World War II was taking away several men, and universities were suffering a shortage of men. Being the aggressive woman she is, she applied and was accepted into the University of Illinois where she received a Ph.D. in nuclear physics in 1945. Yalow had received a teaching assistantship in physics at the University of Illinois, and had been the first woman accepted by their College of Engineering prior to World War 1. Afterwards, this woman's career took off.
Dr. Yalow taught physics at Hunter College from 1946 to 1950. In 1947 she became a consultant in nuclear physics at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx, as they were conducting research on medical applications of radioactive materials. She left Hunter College in 1950, where she became an assistant head of the radioisotope service at the hospital. She had a partnership with Dr. Soloman A. Berson, where they used radioactive isotopes to investigate physiological systems. Together they created a new technique called radioimmunoassay, (RIA), which allows quantifying very small amounts of biological substances in body fluids using radioactive-labeled material. Doctors could now diagnose conditions caused by minute changes in hormone levels.
Dr. Yalow with Dr. Berson used RIA, and helped with diabetics patients, helped screen hepatitis in blood banks, to determine effective level of dosage in antibiotics, to detect foreign substances in blood, to treat dwarfed children with hormone growth, and much more. RIA made endocrinology the hottest field of study.
In 1968, Dr. Yalow became the acting chief of radioisotope service at the VA hospital and 1969 she was named the head of the RIA reference laboratory. From 1970 to 1980 Dr. Yalow was the chief of nuclear medicine services. Her longtime partner, Dr. Berson, died in 1972, and Dr. Yalow renamed her laboratory the Solomon A. Berson Research Laboratory, and she became its director. During the same time, she was a research professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine from 1968 to 1974, and a distinguished service professor from 1974 to 1979. From 1979 to 1985, Yalow was a professor at large Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. From 1980 to 1985 she was chairman of the department of clinical science at the Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center in Bronx.
Dr. Yalow received many awards during her career. In 1975 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 1976 she was the first woman to receive the Albert Lasker Prize for Basic Medical Research. In 1977 she shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the RIA work. She was the second woman to win the Nobel Prize in this category. In 1988, Dr. Yalow was awarded the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science award. . She has also received many other honors such as being the first woman to receive the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research reward, A. Creassy Morrison Award in Natural Sciences of the New York Academy of Sciences; Scientific Gairdner Foundation International Award; American College of Physicians Award For Distinguished Contributions In Science and Related to Medicine; Eli Lilly Award of the American Diabetes Association; First William S. Middleton Medical Research Award of the VA and five honorary doctorates.
Yalow retired from the VA in 1991. She is still alive today, and uses her time for more science education, betters child care, and helps others.
In researching this article, I wrote about this individual for a few reasons. Most of the men that I looked into, had Dr. in front of their names. This woman's partner, Dr. Berson, was referred to as Dr., but Dr. Yalow was not given that privilege. All articles did acknowledge that she had a Ph.D. In an Interview, she stresses the need for education and science, and for people to use their talents to the maximum. After the death of her partner, she constantly had to prove her work, and almost didn't have a chance at the Nobel Prize. Since 1977, Dr. Yalow became well known. I never realized that someone could do so much work. This is an incredible woman. I look at her life, and I would like to accomplish half of what she has. She is outspoken about her work, has served in many areas of her field, and has made a significant change in science
Her Heritage Encyclopedia for Famous Women. © 1994
Spotlight Scientist © 1998 http://www.physics.purdue.edu/wip/herstroy/yalow.html