Janet Rowley

This week’s WiSE Wednesday goes out to Janet Rowley, a native New Yorker and human geneticist. Janet attended a challenging high school in New Jersey where her interests in science flourished. At age 15, she was awarded a scholarship to study in an advanced placement program at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. She completed high school and her first two years of college there. She then obtained two bachelors degrees at the University of Chicago, a BA philosophy in 1944 and a BS in 1946. She went on to attend medical school and completed her studies in 1948, at the age of 23! Dr. Rowley went on to work at Chicago’s Dr. Julian Levinson Foundation, a clinic for children with developmental disabilities, until 1961. She also taught neurology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. In 1962, after a year in England as a NIH trainee, Janet began studying the pattern of DNA replication in normal and abnormal chromosomes. In the 1970’s, she became a full professor at the University of Chicago and further developed existing methods of quinacrine florescence and Giemsa staining to identify chromosomes. Her crowning achievement was her identification of the Philadelphia Chromosome, a genetic abnormality present in certain leukemias. The abnormality results from a translocation on chromosome 9. Rowley later determined that there were also chromosomal abnormalities on chromosomes 8 and 21 in AML and 15 and 17 in promyelocytic leukemia. Her work was immensely influential to the field of medicine. Dr. Rowly recieved the Lasker Award, National Medal of Science, Presidential Metal of Freedom, and Gruber Prize in Genetics. She published over 500 articles and continued to research at the University of Chicago until shorty before her death.