Women in Science: Barbara McClintock

This instalment of Women in Science features a scientist that I encountered regularly during my degree in Biology.



Barbara McClintock


  • A pioneer in the field of cytogenetics, Barbara McClintock worked on studying the maize genome, and how genetic traits are regulated and inherited.
  • Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1983, for the discovery of transposable elements in maize at Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory
  • Discovered that genes and genetic regulation control physical traits (such as colour of corn in maize)
  • Developed ways to visualise the genome in maize, and studied how traits can be genetically linked, and how crossover at meiosis (when one cell forms two gametes) influences changes in genetic traits of offspring (showed crossing over between chromatids as well as homologous chromosomes)
  • Discovered that chromosomes have telomeres – end ‘caps’ that prevent gene loss during recombination and DNA replication
  • Became the first female president of the Genetics Society of America, and the first woman to be awarded the National Medal of Science


Have a suggestion for a scientist to be featured? Let me know or tweet me @TheBiologyYak

Photo from Wikimedia commons


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