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Profile of the Day: Barbara McClintock

On this day in 1902, American scientist Barbara McClintock was born. In 1983, McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of genetic transposition.

Image: Barbara McClintock / Smithsonian Institution Archives, Flickr

McClintock was born on June 16, 1902 in Hartford, Connecticut to Thomas Henry McClintock, a physician, and Sara Handy. From a young age, McClintock had a passion for science. While studying at Cornell, she developed an interest in cytogenetics and began work on what would become the focus of her professional career, the analysis of genetic inheritance in maize. By tracking how characteristics, such as the color of maize kernels, are inherited, she discovered a link to the plants’ chromosomes. During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered that sections of DNA can change position on a chromosome, thus affecting the expression of genes. Her discovery would become known as genetic transposition or “jumping genes.”

It was not until 1983, decades after her initial discovery, that McClintock would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She was the first woman to receive an unshared Nobel Prize in that category.

McClintock died on September 2, 1992 at the age of 90.

Explore Barbara McClintock’s family tree on Geni and share your connection!

View Barbara McClintock’s Geni Profile

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