Rosalyn Yalow was one of the nation’s premier medical physicists, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine (1977) and the first woman to win the Lasker Prize (1976).
Yalow’s Lasker Prize and Nobel Prize were awarded for one of the century’s most significant scientific discoveries. Working in radioisotopes, she and her colleague, Dr. Solomon Berson, refined a new approach – called radioimmunoassay (RIA) – using radioisotopes to analyze physiological systems. The technique used radioisotopes to “tag” certain hormones or proteins, making detailed measurements possible of previously undetected concentrations of hormones. RIA opened many doors in the study of disease and chemical responses.
Rosalyn Yalow, wife and mother of two children, believed women could balance career and family life. On receiving her Nobel Prize, Yalow spoke about women in science careers: “We must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us…we must feel a personal responsibility to ease the path for those who come after us. The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems that beset us.”