Wednesday Geek Woman: Maud Menten, medical researcher

This is a guest post by Ingrid. Ingrid looks at the entire world from an evolutionary perspective and sometimes remembers to post stuff to Dreamwidth.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Maud MentenMaud Menten was one of the first Canadian women to receive a medical doctorate, in 1911. Women could not do research in Canada in those days, so she sailed alone across the Atlantic to work at Leonor Michaelis’ lab in Berlin. During her year there, they developed the first model and equation to describe enzyme kinetics, the Michaelis-Menten equation. She worked for many years as a teacher and researcher at Pittsburg, making more important discoveries – she was the first to separate proteins by electrophoresis, and altogether, could lay claim to being the mother of biochemistry.

She was hard-working, determined and persistent, despite lack of recognition – her contributions to medical science exceed that of many Nobel laureates, and she was only made full professor a year before she retired. She also studied languages, music and painting, and did mountaineering. Today, she is surprisingly unknown, even by biochemists (I learnt the Michaelis-Menten equation early in my undergraduate biochemistry courses but only found out that Menten was a women significantly later), and I’d like to rectify that a bit.

Wikipedia: Maud Menten
Rebecca Skloot (2000) Some called her Miss Menten
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame: Dr. Maud Menten (includes 4min YouTube documentary)

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4 thoughts on “Wednesday Geek Woman: Maud Menten, medical researcher

  1. Megan

    I’ve been using the Michaelis-Menten equation for a couple years now and I had no idea that Menten was a women. I wish that I had! Thanks for this great post!

    1. Ingrid Jakobsen

      You’re exactly the kind of person I wanted to reach. I really recommend Rebecca Skloot’s article about Maud Menten – my post is short because I didn’t want to plagiarise her work.

  2. FFS

    Wow! She studied a lot, I take it. Canada should have been ashamed for not letting such a brilliant woman do research there.

    1. Ingrid Jakobsen

      Yeah, it was a real WTF? moment for me learn that women were excluded from research in Canada at the time. On the other hand, it led to an amazing outcome, since Michaelis and his lab had been working on enzyme kinetics for several years at that time. Maud Menten joins them and whammo! there’s a model and equation.

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