Barbara McClintock


Barbara McClintock is a famous scientist who worked on maize genetics. She received her Ph.D. degree in botany in 1927 from Cornell University. She studied maize genetics and cytogenetics (the study of chromosome shape and function).

Barbara McClintock made many exciting discoveries that were groundbreaking at the time. One is transposition, a phenomenon where genes or small pieces of DNA move to different locations in the genome, sometimes causing mutations. These mobile segments of DNA, formerly called “jumping genes,” are called mobile genetic elements, and can lead to genetic variation, diseases, and in maize, changes in kernel color. This discovery was so unique that many scientists did not believe her work for many years. She finally won a Nobel Prize for this discovery years later in 1983, when she was 81 years old.  She remains the only woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in the category of “Medicine or Physiology.”

Keller, Evelyn Fox (1983) A feeling for the organism. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York ISBN 0-7167-1433-7