We reached out to our Editors-in-Chief, to speak to their thoughts on Barbara McClintock and her pioneering work:
Irina Arkhipova, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA
Barbara McClintock’s 1956 paper “Controlling elements and the gene” in Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology was the first I had to study in preparation for my Ph.D. qualifying exam. Fortunately, the corresponding volume was readily available on the shelves of our library at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow. Of course at that time I could not yet imagine that decades later I would be visiting Cold Spring Harbor as an organizer of a transposable element meeting, and would get a chance to hold in my hands a set of corn ears with multicolored kernels from her collection.
Cédric Feschotte, Cornell University
Barbara McClintock has had a profound influence throughout my career. Her legacy and inspiration have grown even stronger since I moved my lab to Cornell University, where McClintock obtained her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD degrees. In 1944, she became the third woman to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the next year the first woman elected President of the Genetics Society of America, 14 years after its establishment. In 1983, she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize unshared. In 2020, she remains an iconic role model for all of us who aspire, more than ever, to promote diversity and inclusion in STEM.
Haig Kazazian, Johns Hopkins University
I wish I would have met Barbara McClintock. I would have told her that her work was an inspiration to me. When we found LINE-1 insertions in two boys with hemophilia, I immediately thought of her corn work and knew that I had to work in this exciting and beautiful field.
Henry Levin, NIH
Throughout my research career I have admired Barbara McClintock for her tenacity, independence, and vision. She could see the great importance to biology of a few seemingly uninteresting changes in color of corn kernels.