Barbara MccLintock

by Kylie Mclaughlin

Everybody wants to believe that when they die their name will be remembered in history for years, maybe even decades or centuries. Some people believe that so long as the names of those who have passed are remembered, they never truly die. So isn't it our duty to pass on the namSes and works of those who have come before us? So few women get recognition for their contributions to science. As a society, country, and species, we are set with the task to remember them. One woman who made huge contributions to science was Barbara MccLintock.

Barbara MccLintock was born in 1902. She largely grew up in Connecticut in a middle class family. At an early age she asserted her independence, and fell in love with the sciences. She wanted to devote her life to it and do research and found that plant cells and genetics had a particular interest to her. At one point her mother attempted to stop her from attending college, because she believed that it would make her unmarriageable, and that she needed to marry a man who was well off in order to pull her up socially. Despite this Barbara had her father's blessing and support to do what she loved.

Barbara was a shining star in her field and at the top of her studies. There is no denying she had great success. She studied the genes in plants and how they were passed down from generation to generation. She later went on to prove that genetic elements could displace chromosomes causing them to become either active or inactive. 1947 she received the Achievement Award for Women, elected American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1959, in 1967 the Kimber Genetics Award, in 1970 she was awarded the National Medal of Science by Nixon, and finally in 1983 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology.

In a field that was dominated by men she was often mocked and ridiculed. One coworker said she was either crazy or a genius because somehow she managed to stand up to them day after day. Her work largely contributed to the way we see heredity and the way we farm and cultivate crops. Few have made such a contribution and yet most don't even know who she is. She devoted her whole life to her research and never married a choice that was almost unheard of.

As it stands, Barbara is one of the most influential female scientists. She showed that women could excel in any field they wished. In September 2, 1982 she passed away leaving behind a legacy of herd work and perseverance. Now 35 years we look back on all she did for society and science.

  • “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off... no matter what they say.” ~ Barbara Mcclintock