Foundations | Barbara McClintock, On Her Own

Geneticist Barbara McClintock, since her death in 1992, has become a feminist hero. She held steady in the male-dominated world of science, earning her first award in 1947 and culminating her career in 1982 with the Nobel Prize. Her observations and discoveries laid the groundwork for modern genetics research. Her theory that the genome constantly changes and regulates itself, derided in her time as being outlandish, has since been proven.

However, she was no ivory-tower theorist. "She now has a reputation of being a Zen mystic, who formulated theories using her feminine intuition," says University of Chicago geneticist James Shapiro, a friend and colleague. "In fact, she was as rigorous a scientist as there ever was. That was her fundamental gift to genetics. Before her, it was a black-box science, based on theory and math. She opened...

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