Distinguished Women of Past and Present


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Sarah Stewart

From: Mexico, United States: Washington DC
Fields: Biology, Health and Medicine
Key Words/Phrases: cancer researcher, oncologist
The future viral oncologist Sarah Stewart was born in Mexico in 1906 and moved to the United States when she was five years old. She received her Ph.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1939. Afterwards she worked for the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, as a microbiologist. She wasn't allowed to do research on cancer because she lacked medical credentials so when the Georgetown University Medical School finally accepted women students in 1947, Dr. Stewart joined the program and she graduated as Georgetown's first female medical doctor. Subsequently she did research on cancer which led her to discover the role viruses played in cancer and tumor formation.

Dr. Sarah Stewart and her friend and collaborator, Dr. Bernice Eddy, were the first to describe the polyoma virus. They showed that this virus causes tumors in many different animals and that it can be transferred from one individual to another. The virus was later named the SE Polyoma Virus in their honor.

Sadly, Dr. Sarah Stewart died in 1976 from cancer.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1999.

Mothers and Daughters of Invention : Notes for a Revised History of Technology by Autumn Stanley, Rutgers University Press, 1995


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