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Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

Additional Information

Some Important Contributions:

Developed, in collaboration with S. A. Berson, methods of using radioactive isotopes to investigate physiological systems that allow detection of minute concentrations of biological or pharmacological substances in blood or other fluid samples. These techniques are known as radioimmunoassay or RIA. Radioimmunoassay is a test combining the use of radioactive isotope with immunology to measure hormones, enzymes and other substance that exist in such low concentrations in the body that they can be impossible to detect by any other laboratory methods. [36 UN] Her work included the basic science, mathematical analysis, biomedical studies and instrumentation.

Yalow and Berson demonstrated that insulin is bound by antibodies in some diabetics, which leads to abnormal degradation of the insulin. It had been previously thought that diabetes i due to deficiency of insulin secretion.

"RIA has been used to screen blood for hepatitis virus in blood banks, to determine effective dosage levels of drugs and antibiotics, to detect foreign substances in the blood, to treat dwarfed children with growth hormones, to test and correct hormone levels in infertile couples, and in many other fields. RIA made endocrinology one of the hottest fields in medical research." --- Danuta Bois in Microscoft Encarta

Some Important Publications:

"Radioimmunoassay: A Probe for the Fine Structure of Biological Systems", Science 200: 1236 (1978) -- Nobel Prize Lecture.

S.A. Berson, R.S. Yalow, A. Bauman, M.A. Rothschild, and K. Newerly, "Insulin-I131 Matabolism in Human Subjects: Demonstration of Insulin Binding Globulin in the Ciculation of Insulin-Treated Subjects" J. Clin. Invest. 35 (1956): 170-190

Some review articles on medical uses of RIA.

"Immunoassay of Protein Hormones," in The Hormones: Physiology, Chemistry, and Applications, v. 4, 557-630 (G. Pincus et al, eds. Academic Press, 1964).

"Heterogeneity of Peptide Hormones - Its Relevance in Clinical Radioimmunoassay," in Advances in Clinical Chesmistry, v. 20, 1-47 (O. Bodansky and A.L. Latner, eds., Academic Press, 1978).

"Radioimmunoassay: Its Relevance to Clinical Medicine," in Basic Research and Clinical Medicine 3-22 (S.P. Bralow et al. eds., McGraw Hill, 1981).

"Radioimmunoassay in Oncology," Cancer, 53: 1426-1431 (1984).


Nobel Prize in Medicine 1977

for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones

National Medal of Science 1988

Member, American Academy of Arts and Science

Member, National Academy of Sciences

Fellow, New York Academy of Science

Member, American College of Nuclear Physician

Associate Fellow in Physics, American College of Radiology

Partial listing of awards

Eli Lilly Award, American Diabetes Association 1961
Federal Woman's Award 1961 (Not accepted; she refused awards restricted to women because, in her view, they represent reverse discrimination and their existence implies women are not competitive in the broader scientific field.[33Q LSG], [26 SBM])
Van Slyke Award, American Association of Clinical Chemists 1968
Gairdner Foundation International Award 1971
American College of Physicians Award 1971
Koch Award, Endocrine Society 1972
A. Cressy Morrison Award in Natural Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences 1975
Scientific Achievement Award, American Medical Association 1975
Boehringer-Mannheim Award, American Association of Clinical Chemists 1975
Modern Medicine's Distinguished Achievement Award 1976
Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award 1976
American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award for Salute to Excellence 1977
La Madonnina International Prize of Milan 1977
Alumni Association Achievement Award, University of Illinois 1978
Banting Medal, American Diabetes Association 1978
Gratum Genus Humanum Gold Medal, World Federation of Nuclear Medicine and Biology 1978
Rosalyn S. Yalow Research and Development Award 1978
Theobold Smith Award 1982
George Charles de Henesy Nuclear Medicine Pioneer Award 1986

Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame 1993

Honorary Doctorates from many universities including Bar-Ilan University (Israel), Columbia University, Hunter College, Johns Hopkins University, New York Medical College, Princeton University, University of Ghent (Belgium), Universite Claude Bernard, (France), University of Illinois, Washington University, and Yeshiva University.


1941-43 Assistant in Physics, University of Illinois
1944-45 Instructor in Physics, University of Illinois
1945-46 Assistant Engineer, Federal Telecommunications Laboratory
1946-50 Lecturer and Assistant Professor of Physics, Hunter College
1947-50 Consultant, Radioisotope Unit, Veterans Administration Hospital, Bronx, NY
1950-70 Physicist and Assistant Chief, Radioisotope Unit, Veterans Administration Hospital, Bronx, NY
1963-91 Research Professor, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
1968-70 Acting Chief, Radioisotope Unit, Veterans Administration Hospital, Bronx, NY
1968-74 Research Professor, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
1970-86 Chief, Nuclear Medicine Service, Veterans Administration Hospital, Bronx, NY
1972-91 Senior Medical Investigator, Vetrans Administration Hospital, Bronx, NY
1973-79 Co-Editor, Hormone and Metabolic Research
1974-79 Distinguished Service Professor, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
1979-85 Distinguished Professor at Large, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University
1980-85 Chair, Department of Clinical Science, Montefiore Hospital and Medical Center
1986-present Emeritus Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University


B.A. Physics, Hunter College 1941
M.S. Physics, University of Illinois 1942
Ph.D. Physics, University of Illinois 1945
Diploma, American Board of Radiology 1951

References consulted

[1C N20], [amw1992], [26 SBM], [33Q LSG], [36 UN], [39K CBY], [48 OSO], [51 MJB], [57 BDS], [58 SH]

Recommended reading: Sharon Bertsche McGrayne's Nobel Prize Women in Science [26 SBM].

Additional Information/Comments

Autobiography written for Nobel Foundation.

After graduation from Hunter College, Yalow applied for a teaching assistantship at Purdue University but was rejected. Her professor was told this was because she was a Jewish woman from New York; however, if you guarantee her a job afterward, we'll give her an assistantship. Since that was not possible, Yalow got a job as a secretary to a biochemist, Dr. Rudolph Shoenheimer, at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons planning to take a stenography course, and classes at the College. She did not stay in the job for long. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offered her an assistantship in February 1941. Only one professor, Robert Payton, would allow her to work as a teaching assistant for him. [26 SBM], [33Q LSG]

Yalow's official thesis supervisor was Maurice Goldhaber husband of Gertrude Scharff-Goldhaber.

While teaching at Hunter College, Yalow worked as a volunteer for Edith Hinkley Quimby in order to gain experience working on medical application of radioisotopes. [33Q LSG]

Mildred Spiewak Dresselhaus was her student at Hunter College.

In 1950, Yalow began her fruitful collaboration with S. A. Berson. They alternated first authorship on the paper they published together. After Berson died in 1972, at Yalow's request their V.A. laboratory wa renamed the Solomon A. Berson Research Laboratory, "so that his name will continue to be on my papers as long as I publish and so that his contributions to our Service will be memorialized." [33Q LSG]

Yalow and Berson did not patent RIA procedures thus making it available to all users. [33Q LSG]

Yalow hosted a five-part PBS series on the life of Marie Curie in the fall of 1978.

Yalow never worked as a consultant for a drug company because she feels that she would be unable to speak out concerning her views on how RIA should be used. [33Q LSG]

Married Aaron Yalow in 1943 and they have two children Benjamin and Elanna.

Professional Activities:
Yalow has served on many boards and committees, and has held numerous offices among them are Secretary, U.S. National Committee on Medical Physics (1953-57) and President, Endocrine Society (1978-79).

Field Editors: Frieda Stahl/ S. A. Moszkowski


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latest revision {4/30/97 mjw} 3/16/01 nb