“I didn’t intend to be an assistant for the rest of my life; so I started a new field of research.”
Mildred Cohn was determined to prove that talent should be the only qualification for working in chemistry. At a time when open displays of prejudice against women and Jews were not uncommon, she fought for and won a place in high-level government and university laboratories.
Cohn transformed the study of enzymes, building her own high-tech instruments when the right ones weren’t available. She also helped pioneer the technique of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and instruments like NMR spectrometers, which enabled her to study how enzymes and other proteins behave during chemical reactions in the body.
Even after she retired, Cohn didn’t back down from a challenge: she celebrated her 90th birthday by going hang gliding.