As I’ve been educating myself on the early history of stem cells I became familiar with a scientist that I had not previously heard of during my career who played a key role in the early days of stem cell research: Dr. Florence R. Sabin, M.D., born in Colorado in 1871.
Dr. Sabin was a truly amazing person. A very gifted scientist and one who broke down many gender-based barriers in science.
She did pioneering work in a number biomedical fields including her work on the origin of blood cells, but also on brain development. I’ve read some of Dr. Sabin’s papers on stem cells, coming away extremely impressed.
For those interested in the history of stem cells, of which as I said I have a great deal more to say in a future post, just to wet your appetite take a look at this 1917 article by Sabin (PDF here) in which she describes the angioblast/stem cell origin of blood cells and vessels. Keep in mind that the oft referred to “discoverers of stem cells”, Ernest McCulloch and James Till, were not born until 9 and 14 years after this Sabin article was published. In addition Sabin had many more key articles on stem cells.
From a broader scientific, cultural, and historical perspective, Dr. Sabin was a true trailblazer.
Sabin began her medical studies at Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1896.
In 1917, she was appointed Full Professor at John Hopkins at the young age of 46, the first women ever to be a full professor at a medical college in American history.
In 1924, she was appointed a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the first women ever to have that honor.
In 1925 she was appointed Chair of the Department of Cellular Studies at Rockefeller at the also young age of 54, also a first.
Dr. Sabin received these honors for her outstanding achievements in science and as a leader.
Consider that it was not until 1920 that the U.S. Constitution was changed with the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Thus, Dr. Sabin was a full professor at Hopkins 3 years before any women in America were allowed to vote.
You can only imagine how tough she was and what a great leader she was. Today in this post I honor her lasting contributions to science.