This biographical study illuminates one of the most important yet misunderstood figures in the history of science. Barbara McClintock (1902-1992), a geneticist who integrated classical genetics with microscopic observations of the behaviour of chromosomes, was regarded as a genius and as an urthodox, nearly incomprehensible thinker. In 1946, she discovered mobile genetic elements, which she called controlling elements. Thirty-seven years later, she won a Nobel Prize for this work, becoming the third woman to receive an unshared Nobel in science. Since then, McClintock has become an emblem of feminine scientific thinking and the tragedy of narrow-mindedness and bias in science. Using McClintock's research tes, available correspondence, and dozens of interviews with McClintock and others, Comfort argues that, contrary to various accounts, including Keller's, McClintock's work was neither igred in the 1950s r wholly accepted two decades later. Nor was McClintock marginalized by scientists; throughout the decades of her alleged rejection, she remained a distinguished figure in her field.
NATHANIEL C. COMFORT is Deputy Director, Center for History of Recent Science, George Washington University.