Janet Rowley was well known for her breakthrough research in cancer genetics, especially documenting the translocation associated with chronic mylogenous leukemia. She was an integral part of the University of Chicago cytogenetics program and remained an active faculty member there until just before her death in December 2013.
Born in 1925 in New York, Dr. Janet Davison Rowley made major
contributions to the field of cyogenetics. She began studying medicine at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate and earned her medical degree. Marriage to fellow medical student David Rowley and a busy life raising a family of four
children followed her graduation.
Working in a clinic for mentally
handicapped children part-time led her to research the hereditary (i.e. genetic)
causes of various disorders she encountered there. Unravelling the mystery of
chromosomal abnormalities in Down’s syndrome patients led her to study the
budding field of cytogenetics in Oxford.
At this time, important new techniques were being developed in the field of
genetics which enabled deeper understanding of human chromosomes and led to
insight into the genetic roots of some diseases. As her interest in genetics
grew and her children matured, Rowley devoted more and more time to the
cytogenetics, eventually studying cancer genetics, especially different forms
of leukemia. She discovered a chromosomal translocation associated with chronic
mylogenous leukemia and documented it in her first major academic publication
A full time researcher and faculty
member at the University
of Chicago by 1975,
Rowley and her lab identified various chromosomal abnormalities associated
with different cancers. She served on the President’s Council on
Bioethics and received numerous awards including the National Medal of
Honor. Janet Rowley stood out as a supporter of stem-cell research and was widely looked up to as a role model for women interested in careers in the sciences. She remained an active faculty member and researcher at the University of Chicago until shortly before her death. She died in December, 2013.