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Happy Birthday, Barbara

Barbara McClintock in the lab at Cold Spring Harbor in 1947

Barbara McClintock, American geneticist, was born on this day, June 16, in 1902. Maize cytogenetics was the focus of her entire research career. In the 1940s-50s she theorized that genes can move around within a chromosome and even among different chormosomes—decades before it became possible to confirm this fact through molecular techniques. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was the recipient of the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award, the MacArthur Fellowship, as well as the 1983 Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology for the discovery of genetic transposition.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington donated McClintock's favorite microscope to the Smithsonian in order to "help to inspire generations of young people to emulate Dr. McClintock's dedication to science."

A search of the Libraries' handy database, Library and Archival Exhibitions on the Web shows that Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where Barbara McClintock did much of her research, maintains a digital archive about her, which includes photographs and videos.

Our collections include several books by and about Barbara McClintock:

The discovery and characterization of transposable elements: the collected papers of Barbara McClintock. New York : Garland Pub., 1987.

Chromosome constitution of races of maize: its significance in the interpretation of relationships between races and varieties in the Americas, Barbara McClintock, Takeo Angel Kato Y., Almiro Blumenschein. Chapingo, Mexico : Colegio de Postgraduados, 1981.

The Dynamic genome: Barbara McClintock's ideas in the century of genetics, edited by Nina Fedoroff, David Botstein. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1992.

A feeling for the organism: the life and work of Barbara McClintock, Evelyn Fox Keller. New York ; San Francisco : W.H. Freeman, c1983.

The tangled field: Barbara McClintock's search for the patterns of genetic control, Nathaniel C. Comfort. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Jumping genes : Barbara McClintock's scientific legacy: an essay about basic research from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, by Patricia Parratt Craig. [Washington, D.C. : Carnegie Institution], 1994.

Image above from Wikipedia: "This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code."


  1. Hello.
    I am a photo researcher working with a publishing company based in New York.
    We are currently working on an educational textbook and would like to include the photograph above in the new edition of the book. Do you have a hi-res copy of it and/or others like it? In addition, would it be possible to send you a permissions form for the images?
    Thank you very much for your help.

  2. Hello Mr. Garvin,
    The image reproduced above originally came from the National Library of Medicine, from the Barbara McClintock Papers, via Wikimedia.
    Source :
    NLM does offer a high-resolution version, but because they have not been able to identify the current copyright owner, you may want to double check with them before using in a publication. There is a contact email for the Papers on the page referenced above.
    Keri Thompson (for Smithsonian Digital Library)

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