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Photograph of Mildred Cohn
CHF Collections, Photograph by Douglas A. Lockard

Oral history interview with Mildred Cohn

  • 1987-Dec-15 (First session)
  • 1988-Jan-06 (Second session)

Oral history interview with Mildred Cohn

  • 1987-Dec-15 (First session)
  • 1988-Jan-06 (Second session)

Mildred Cohn begins the interview by reflecting on her childhood, education, and family life, describing how she was prepared to enter college by age fourteen. She then discusses her undergraduate experience at Hunter College, recalling the difficulties she encountered as a woman in the sciences. She continues by recounting her graduate years at Columbia, where, after working for a short time at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, she began her work with isotopes in Urey's lab. She tells of her experience working with du Vigneaud at George Washington and Cornell universities and contrasts that with the much more independent atmosphere of the Cori's lab at Washington University in St. Louis. Finally she describes her years at the University of Pennsylvania and highlights the most fulfilling aspects of her work. She concludes with her analysis of the future of biochemistry and advice for those, especially women, interested in pursuing a career in the natural sciences.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 119 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Leon Gortler is a professor of chemistry at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. He holds AB and MS degrees from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Harvard University where he worked with Paul Bartlett. He has long been interested in the history of chemistry, in particular the development of physical organic chemistry, and has conducted over fifty oral and videotaped interviews with major American chemists.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0080

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Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • July 12, 1913
  • New York , New York, United States
  • October 12, 2009
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1931 Hunter College BA Chemistry
1932 Columbia University MS Chemistry
1938 Columbia University PhD Chemistry

Professional Experience

United States. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

  • 1932 to 1934

George Washington University

  • 1937 to 1938 Research Associate

Cornell University. Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College

  • 1938 to 1946 Research Associate in Biochemistry

Washington University (Saint Louis, Mo.)

  • 1946 to 1958 Research Associate in Biochemistry, Medical School
  • 1958 to 1960 Associate Professor of Biochemistry, Medical School

Harvard Medical School

  • 1950 to 1951 Research Associate

University of Pennsylvania. School of Medicine

  • 1960 to 1961 Associate Professor of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry
  • 1961 to 1978 Professor of Biophysics and Physical Biochemistry
  • 1978 to 1982 Benjamin Rush Professor of Physiological Chemistry
  • 1982 to 1989 Benjamin Rush Professor of Physiological Chemistry, Emeritus

Fox Chase Cancer Center

  • 1982 to 1985 Senior Member


Year(s) Award
1952 to 1958 Established Investigator, American Heart Association
1963 Garvan Medal, American Chemical Society
1964 to 1978 Career Investigator, American Heart Association
1971 National Academy of Sciences
1972 American Philosophical Society
1975 ScD, Medical College of Pennsylvania
1975 Cresson Medal, Franklin Institute
1977 American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1977 Foreign Member, Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris, France
1978 ScD, Radcliffe College
1979 Award, International Organization of Women Biochemists
1980 Award, US Senior Scientist, Humboldt Foundation, Federal Republic of Germany
1981 ScD, Washington University, St. Louis
1981 Chancellor's Distinguished Visiting Professorship, University of California, Berkeley
1982 National Medal of Science
1984 ScD, University of Pennsylvania
1984 ScD, Brandeis University
1984 ScD, Hunter College
1984 Award, American Academy of Achievement
1985 ScD, University of North Carolina
1985 to 1989 Visiting Professor of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
1986 Chandler Medal, Columbia University
1987 Distinguished Service Award, College of Physicians, Philadelphia
1988 Honorary National Member, Iota Sigma Pi
1988 Remsen Award, Maryland Section, American Chemical Society
1988 Ph.D. (honorary), Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
1990 ScD, University of Miami

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PDF — 7.6 MB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

12 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads