The end of winter break compels me to revive the blog. As I re-approach it with high spirits, I see that my views have flat-lined. Much like a pet left at home after a long vacation, the blog is hungry for a little attention. Here I am again blog, ready for a new semester full of new adventures. I won’t leave you like that again, I promise.
The assignment for this week was to research a scientist depicted in a cartoon graphic we looked at. I chose Barbara McClintock. Her jeans in the picture are not only the perfect shade of blue, but they also reach her waist at the ideal scientist height. In all seriousness though, I really wanted to research a female scientist. Not only are females underrepresented in science, but I’d argue that they’re a little under-appreciated as well.
Barbara McClintock was at the forefront of discovering the positioning of genes on chromosomes and their ability to be transferred and transposed. She and graduate student Harriet Creighton first discovered this phenomenon through several experiments. Her research was largely conducted on Maize, or corn, which also arguably paved the way for genetic crossovers in agriculture. Furthermore, she was also the first scientist to correctly theorize about epigenetics, which is essentially gene expression influenced by environment. Eventually she won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for her genetic discoveries.
Her work was done primarily in the 40s and 50s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that other scientists began recognizing her work. She spent long periods in isolation toiling over corn and the color variation amongst kernels. This was of no consequence to her male counterparts though, because they saw her work as boring and insignificant. Besides discouragement from males in her field, Barbara also received discouragement from her mother who thought that her intelligence would render her unattractive to a husband. She waited a whole year after high school to apply to Cornell. While she never married, her solitude eventually served her as she was the first woman to win an un-shared Nobel Prize in medicine.
Barbara McClintock was a pioneer for her time. She discovered the location of genes before DNA was even fully understood. Her contributions to science range from a wider understanding of genetic expression to genetic crossbreeding in agriculture.