Mary-Claire King

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Mary-Claire King (2013)

Mary-Claire King (born February 27, 1946) is an American geneticist. She has won several major awards, including the 2004 Gruber Prize in Genetics, the 2014 Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science, and the 2018 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine.


  • When those of us who are now middle-aged went to high school and to college, what we learned about cancer was completely descriptive. We learned how cancer cells look compared to the way normal cells look and it was beautiful, it was elegant. We learned how cancerous organs look compared to the way normal organs look. We learned about how patients decline with cancer. But it was very frustrating at least for me, because we didn’t have any understanding or sense of why these processes were occurring. Exactly what was happening, why it was it happening, when was it happening, how was it happening, all the questions you ask of mystery. We now don’t have them all answered — if it were an easy problem it would have long since been solved. But we do have a very good sense of the kinds of changes that a cell undergoes between the time it is a normal cell and the time that it is growing completely out of control, causes a tumor that can invade, metastasize and kill its host.
  • When women our age started in the field, there were very few of us, and we were absolutely on the margins. People pretty much ignored us. I have come to realize that there was a great freedom in being ignored, that you could go after huge questions, because nobody noticed.
  • And my mother shrieked ... "You can't leave that child here alone!" And, you know, fair enough. And this unmistakable voice, above and behind me, said, "Emily and I will be fine." And I turned around and said, "Thank you." And my mother looked at me and said, "You can't leave Emily with a total stranger!" And I said, "Mom, if you can't trust Joe DiMaggio, who can you trust?"

External links[edit]

Encyclopedic article on Mary-Claire King on Wikipedia