Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Monday, November 9, 2015

Florence Rena Sabin, the "First Lady of American Science"

Florence Rena Sabin (born 9 November 1871)

Florence Rena Sabin was the first woman appointed to the faculty of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (1902), the first woman elected to the presidency of the American Association of Anatomists (1924), and the first woman elected to the National Academy of Scientists (1926).

Florence Rena Sabin,
in her lab at the Rockefeller Institute
As a research scientist, she studied embryology, histology, and cellular immunology. 

After her retirement from the Rockefeller Institute in 1938, she turned from her career as a researcher to public medicine. Returning to Colorado, the state of her birth, she was named by the governor to a committee to study public health problems.

As chair of the Governor's Committee on Health, she drew up plans for a redesign of the state health department, modernizing the state's public health system. (In 1947 she would say that she had been appointed only because the governor had no interest in the subject and gave the job to "an old lady" because he didn't think she could get anything done.) In 1948 she was appointed the head of the city of Denver's health department--she donated her salary to charity.  

Florence Rena Sabin died on 3 October 1953. 

For a biography posted by the National Library of Medicine, click here.

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