Photo of Rosalyn S. Yalow

Rosalyn S. Yalow

  • National Medal of Science
  • Biological Sciences

For her historic contributions to the discovery and development of radioimmunoassay, a technique that employs radioactive isotopes to detect and measure the levels of insulin and hormones in the blood and body tissues.

Gender bias almost cheated the world out of a remarkable scientific mind. Rosalyn S. Yalow contemplated cutting her doctoral ambitions short due to cultural pressures. Fortunately, she would go on to be a pioneer for female scientists and win the Nobel Prize in medicine.

Yalow would focus her work on radioisotopes as a replacement for radium in treating and diagnosing disease. Yalow, along with Solomon Berson, would ultimately use radioisotopes to measure diseases, viruses, hormone, and even trace elements within the body. This practice would be named radioimmunoassay.

The science would have incredible applications and consequences. Radioimmunoassay would allow scientists to measure biological processes and the rate the body metabolizes substances. The hormone, virus and drug in question would be tagged with a radioisotope and could now be measured in a very precise and specific way. Radioimmunoassay would help measure hundreds of biological substances and materials and led to a much better comprehension of human and animal biology.

By Melissa Ayala