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Rosalyn S. Yalow, A Winner of the Nobel Prize


Rosalyn Sussman Yalow is the first woman born in America to win a Nobel Prize in Science. She won this coveted prize in 1977 after her successful development of the radioimmunoassay (RIA) (CWP and Regents of the University of California). Who exactly is Rosalyn S. Yalow? This American medical physicist was born on 19 July 1921 to Clara Zipper and Simon Sussman (Les Prix Nobel). None of her parents ever attended high school. Nevertheless, Rosalyn started reading even before she entered kindergarten. She had one brother, Alexander, who played a major role in her elementary learning. She schooled at Walton High School before moving to Hunter College where she graduated in 1941 (Les Prix Nobel). It is in this college where Rosalyn developed a special interest in physics. However, after graduating from Hunter College in 1941, life took a twist, and Rosalyn registered in a business school only to quit after a short period. As luck may have it, she secured a teaching assistantship opportunity at the prestigious University of Illinois where she was to teach physics. This was a dream come true given that Rosalyn had a passion for developing a career in physics (Les Prix Nobel).

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In the course of her work, she met Aaron Yalow, a physics student at Illinois, married in 1943, and they had two kids, Benjamin and Elanna. In 1945, despite the many challenges that Rosalyn was undergoing, she registered for her Ph.D. in nuclear physics. Through her husband, Rosalyn met Dr. Quimby, who later introduced her to the dean of American medical physicists and this marked the entry of one Rosalyn Yalow into radioisotope (Les Prix Nobel). Among others, Rosalyn developed a technique of determining the amount of circulating insulin in the body. According to Les Prix Nobel, this marked the inception of RIA; a method used world allover to determine biological substances in different studies.


The primary achievements by Rosalyn date back to her collaborative work with Solomon A. Berson where they discovered how to utilize radioisotopes to determine blood volume among others. These two young scientists made a landmark achievement in the early 1950s when they realized that insulin triggered the production of antibodies (CWP and Regents of the University of California). This did not enter mainstream immunology with many immunologists differing with it on matters of principle. Interestingly, this rejection fuelled the desire of these two scientists to observe insulin antibodies at relatively small concentrations that led to the birth of RIA.

One of the greatest publications that Rosalyn made is the Nobel Prize-Winning research paper, “Radioimmunoassay: A Probe for the Fine Structure of Biological Systems” (CWP and Regents of the University of California). This article, which she gave as a lecture to win the Nobel Prize, explained how it was possible to use radioactive isotopes to determine levels of biological components in the blood. In this case, she explained how to determine levels of blood insulin using radioisotopes. Other articles include “Insulin-I131 Metabolism in Human Subjects: Demonstration of Insulin Binding Globulin in the Circulation of Insulin-Treated Subjects” (CWP and Regents of the University of California). Away from research papers, Rosalyn took outstanding actions that will remain in the memories of many. For instance, in 1941, she dared move into engineering college at Illinois University; a ground never trodden by any woman hitherto (CWP and Regents of the University of California). She actually remained the only woman in the College of Engineering for more than two decades and this shows more than audacity. She chose to remain deterrent and broke conventions as many other women decided to remain in the comfort of their domestic roles.

Critical Decisions

Whether it is coincidence or good luck, Rosalyn seems to have always made mature decisions dating back to her school life. After graduating from college in 1941, she decided to take the assistant role to teach physics at the University of Illinois. She decided to become a high-level physicist despite her family’s insistence that she become an elementary school teacher. Despite the fact that it seemed impossible to secure funding as a female physicist, she went ahead and did what she held dear to her; that is, being a physicist. To ensure that she achieved her dream, she accepted to take stenography to hone the secretarial skills that she needed to be a secretary to Dr. Rudolf Schoenheimer. These are crucial decisions that Rosalyn took for her to reach where she reached.

Why Remember Rosalyn Sussman

There are all reasons why Rosalyn should be remembered now and in generations to come. First, Rosalyn was a successful teacher, mother, and wife. She is the epitome of how one can mix both education and motherhood and still become successful in both. This is contrary to contemporary women who will forego one to perfect the other. However, even if we do not remember Rosalyn for her rare abilities in balancing motherhood and education, we cannot fail to remember her for the contribution she made in immunology. The invention of RIA was a landmark achievement in immunology not forgetting that it is a woman who achieved it. Today we can determine levels of insulin among other biological components in the body. The invention of RIA brought a revolution in the medical world. Actually, some of her critics, who rejected her two first journals on radioimmunoassay, came to embrace her findings later in life.

Rosalyn broke conventions and proved that women are not lesser beings and they can do more than staying back at home to look after children and carry out household chores. We should remember Rosalyn for her outstanding achievements in representing women in the scientific arena. After her retirement, this heroine did not go to relax and enjoy her wealth and fame. She used her status to campaign for children’s rights (CWP and Regents of the University of California). We will remember this mother, wife, scientist, and activist as an epitome of audacity and hope. Today women can venture into science fearlessly with the firm belief that someone somewhere made it. This is none other than one Rosalyn Sussman Yalow. She is a true champion and mentioning RIA without Rosalyn will be nothing short of discredit.

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Important Beliefs of Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

According to Chirban (162), Rosalyn always believed herself to be independent, and never at any one time, did she think of being like somebody else other than her. In an interview with Chirban, Rosalyn posits that she has no religious affiliations and that science and religion are two different issues that do not meet at any point (163). She believes in science that tries to analyze and study every issue through experimentation and rendition as opposed to religion that urges people to understand and accept things on basis of faith. According to Chirban, Rosalyn had no problem with her Jewish family; it is only that she was convinced that she had no place for God in her life (163). To her, the closest religion and God can come close is through her husband and she participates in religion for the sake of him. Moreover, the only important rationale that directs her life is the disposition to do something for the world (Chirban 163). Rosalyn’s value systems, deeds, and beliefs are based on action as opposed to reflection and she stresses on her self-promulgated ego with no conventional religious affiliation.


Rosalyn once said, “The failure of women to have reached positions of leadership has been due in large part to social and professional discrimination” (Brainy Quote). This quote brings out the reformist that Rosalyn is. She believes strongly that women can achieve what men can achieve and she demonstrated this by breaking traditions and inventing RIA. Her motivation comes from within not from outside. What else can explain her deterrent efforts to succeed in physics? It cannot be from her parents who believed that the far she could go is becoming an elementary school teacher (CWP and Regents of the University of California). Neither can it come from anyone else given that men dominated this field. In another instance, she said, “We must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage, and determination to succeed” (Brainy Quote). This portrays Rosalyn’s firm belief that she owed her success to nothing or nobody else other than herself. She is a stoic believer that what she does is a direct result of her personality void of a higher power.

Insights from Rosalyn

In the wake of reading Rosalyn’s story, the writer realized that all things are possible. If Rosalyn made it in science, managed to emerge as the first woman to venture into science and succeed, then anyone can do what he or she wants to be provided there is desire, resources, opportunities, and hard work.

Questions the Writer Would ask Rosalyn

If I were to meet Rosalyn today, the first question would be what were you thinking to come up with RIA? This question would be the first one because there were many things Rosalyn and her colleagues would have thought about at that time. They would have thought of Second World War. The second question would be why do you think or feel that God has no place in you? I strongly believe that there is a higher power that we reach up to from time to time if not always. I would love to hear Rosalyn explain to me where she thinks she came from. I would also like to hear where she thinks she will go after death. Does she believe in life after death? Well, it is only Rosalyn, who can only answer these answers sufficiently.

New Words and Concepts

Radioimmunoassay is useful in determining the levels of biological components like insulin and other hormones in the blood. I need to learn stenography in a bid to hone my secretarial skills. The presence of insulin in the blood triggers the production of antibodies though in small amounts.


Rosalyn Sussman Yalow became the first woman, born in America to win the coveted Nobel Prize in science. She has traveled a long way to be where she is today. She dared to venture into physics even though men dominated this field hitherto. She is the co-inventor of RIA; a method that is being used world allover in laboratories to detect biological components in blood. Interestingly, Rosalyn believes that her success comes from within and she has no place for God or religion per se.

Works cited

Brainy Quote. “Rosalyn S. Yalow Quotes.” 2009. Web.

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Chirban, P. “True Coming of Age: A Dynamic Process that leads to Emotional Well-Being.” 2004. Web.

CWP and Regents of the University of California. “Rosalyn Sussman Yalow.” 1998. Web.

Les Prix Nobel. “The Nobel Prizes 1977.” Nobel Foundation. 1978. Web.

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"Rosalyn S. Yalow, A Winner of the Nobel Prize." StudyCorgi, 20 Nov. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Rosalyn S. Yalow, A Winner of the Nobel Prize." November 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Rosalyn S. Yalow, A Winner of the Nobel Prize." November 20, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Rosalyn S. Yalow, A Winner of the Nobel Prize." November 20, 2021.


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