Elizabeth H. Blackburn, University of California at San Francisco, Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins and Jack W. Szostak, Howard Hughes Medical Institute won the 2009 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.
MIT Press boasts the recent paperback reissue of the compelling biography, Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres. University of San Francisco author Catherine Brady tells the story of Elizabeth Blackburn's life and work and the emergence of a new field of scientific research on the specialized ends of chromosomes and the telomerase enzyme that extends them. In honor of the occasion, here's a brief excerpt from the book looking at the young and highly motivated Blackburn:
From the start she carefully protected the passion that would shape her life as a scientist, her fierce determination often masked by a polite, acquiescent demeanor. The nice girl who remained silent when confronted or thwarted purchased the freedom of a secret, willful, essential self. Blackburn’s first clear memory dates to when she was about three years old. Playing in the yard behind her family’s house, she had found a bull ant and was handling it gently, talking to it as it crisscrossed her palm and the back of her hand. When her mother came on the scene, she brushed the insect from Liz’s hand and vehemently warned her never to touch these insects, whose bite could result in a painful welt. Surprised by her mother’s concern, Liz obeyed. But she remained stubbornly and silently certain that the ant could not hurt her.
We'd also like to tip our hat to Jack Szostak, who is a contributor to Protocells: Bridging Nonliving and Living Matter, and Carol Greider.