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Mary-Claire King, Ph.D.

Dr. Mary-Claire King is a pioneer in the field of genetics who works to use biology for those who have historically been powerless, especially women. She first revolutionized evolutionary biology when she proved that chimpanzees and humans had genetic material that was 99% identical, a much higher percentage than anyone had previously thought.

She was one of the first biologists to believe that breast cancer could be traced to a particular gene. With the knowledge that breast cancer can be inherited, many women now know to take extra precautions.

In 1984 she travelled to Argentina to help women find their grandchildren, the children of their children who had been kidnapped by the government during the revolution. The parents were killed and the children adopted by different people in the government. Dr. Marie-Clair King helped prove, through genetic tests, when the grandmothers were the real relatives of the children.

Now she has become interested in AIDS and how different people's immune systems react to the virus.

Dr. King leads a lab of 23 researchers at the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley.

"Women tend to tackle questions in science that bridge gaps. We're more inclined to pull together threads from different areas, to be more integrative in our thinking."

"The Search for a Breast Cancer Gene" Glamour Magazine
Patient No More: The Politics of Breast Cancer, Sharon Batt
"Hunting a Killer Gene," U.S. News & World Report 117
Principles of Medical Genetics, Thomas D. Gelehrte and Francis S. Collins.
"Interview: Mary-Claire King," Omni 15


Search our past database for famous women astronauts, politicians, athletes, mathematicians, authors, and educators: More Women of Achievement.



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