Mildred Cohn

University of Pennsylvania

July 12, 1913 - October 12, 2009


Election Year: 1971
Scientific Discipline: Biochemistry
Membership Type: Member

Mildred Cohn overcame the hostility and discrimination toward women common to the 1930s scientific establishment and established herself as one of the most significant biochemists of the twentieth century. She made important contributions to the development of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, to the development of methods for the study of metabolic processes, and to the delineation of the structure of adenosine triphosphate. Cohn was the only woman to have been awarded the American Heart Association’s Lifetime Career Award, the first female editor on the board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and the first female president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Cohn graduated from Hunter College in 1931 and earned her PhD from Columbia University in 1938. With traditional academic careers largely closed to women at the time, she found work as an assistant to Vincent du Vigneaud at George Washington University and later at Cornell University. When her husband, physicist Henry Primakoff, was offered a professorship at Washington University in St. Louis, she moved to the lab of Carl and Gerti Cori at that institution, where she remained until moving to the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. In 1964 she became the first woman to receive a lifetime grant from the American Heart Association. She received a National Medal of Honor in 1982. In 2009 Cohn was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York.

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