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Janet Rowley

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 17 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g447
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg

Geneticist who linked chromosomal aberrations with certain cancers

In June 1973, when Janet Rowley published a groundbreaking paper in Nature connecting the development of a cancer with chromosomal aberrations,1 she was identified as a member of the University of Chicago School of Medicine. But that was just a part time job. Her full time job was raising four sons.

Indeed, much of her early pioneering genetic research, which would eventually open the door to the development of drugs designed to fight those aberrations, was done at home in the presence of her children. She would photograph chromosomes with a microscope in her Chicago University lab, then take the prints home to splice and arrange in various formations on the dining room table. Her sons would tease her, saying she was playing with paper dolls.

“I had to make sure the boys did not cough or sneeze or disturb my precious arranged chromosomes,” she later said.

After completing her postgraduate medical degree training in 1951, Rowley decided to devote most of her time to raising her children. She …

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