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ROWLEY, JANET


INTERVIEW
JUNE 2005

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

TOPICAL OUTLINE

MAJOR PAPERS

INTERVIEW HISTORY AND RELATED MATERIALS

EARLY CHILDHOOD AND EDUCATION AT THE LAB SCHOOL

UNDERGRADUATE AND MED SCHOOL TRAINING

MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND EARLY CLINIC WORK

EARLY TRAINING AND RESEARCH IN CYTOGENETICS

FIRST PUBLICATION; OXFORD AND CHICAGO

DISCOVERIES AND FACULTY POSITION

POLITICS AND GENETICS: THE WAR ON CANCER

STEM CELL RESEARCH AND PATENTS

REFLECTIONS ON BEING A FEMALE SCIENTIST






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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.


Biographical Sketch


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 in 1973.

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.

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