Who was Gerty Cori?
Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori is the first woman in America to win the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine, an honour she shared with her fellow researcher and spouse Carl F. Cori. Born in Prague, she was home-schooled till the age of ten, after which she was admitted to Lyceum for girls. After her graduation she studied at Tetschen Realgymnasium after qualifying the University’s entrance examination. She entered the Medical School in the University of Prague and received her doctorate in Medicine. Then she spent two years in Carolinen Children’s Hospital, before moving to America along with her husband Carl. After working together in Buffalo, she joined him as a Research Associate when he moved to St. Loius. Later she was made a Professor of Biochemistry there. When they were in Roswell, they were discouraged to work together, but that did not stop them from their scientific endeavours which is proven by the fifty papers they published together in Roswell. The Coris had collaborated on research work from their student days as they had a mutual interest in preclinical sciences. They researched on how sugar or glucose is metabolised. The Cori cycle which explained the movement of energy in the body was the ground breaking theory for which they got the Nobel Prize.
Childhood & Early Life
Gerty, a Jewish was born on 15th of August, in 1896, in Prague. She was the oldest child of Otto and Martha Radnitz. Her father was in a managerial position in one of the sugar refineries.
Till the age of ten she was home schooled, and in 1906, she went to a Lyceum for girls.
In 1912 she graduated and studied for the qualifying examination to enrol in the University. Two years later, she took the test and passed at the ‘Tetschen Realgymnasium’.
At sixteen Gerty decided to opt for medicine for further studies. The decision was influenced by an uncle, who was a teacher in medicine at the ‘University of Prague’.
Gerty was accepted in the ‘Medical School’ in the ‘University of Prague’, and in 1920, she received the Doctorate in Medicine.
During her days as a medical student she was introduced to a fellow student, by the name of Carl Ferdinand Cori, who loved the same things she did like mountain climbing and skiing and gardening. They worked together and published the results of their first research collaboration.
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Gerty and Carl got married after graduation and were invited to work in various clinics in Vienna. While working in Vienna, they understood the implications of the impending war and started applying for positions overseas.
Gerty worked in ‘Carolinen Children’s Hospital’ for two years, before she shifted to America with her husband Carl.
In 1922, they moved to Buffalo, where Carl was offered a position at the ‘State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases’. Initially Gerty was offered a junior position, that of an assistant pathologist. The institute later came to be known as ‘Roswell Park Memorial Institute’.
During their years in Roswell, they were discouraged to work together, but their fruitful scientific endeavour was proven by the fact that they jointly published fifty research papers in Roswell.
In 1929, the scientific couple came up with the theory which later prompted the nomination for Nobel Prize.
In 1931, Carl took the position of Chairman in the Department of Pharmacology at ‘Washington University School of Medicine’. Although Gerty had the same experience and degree like her husband, she was offered the position of a research associate, which she held for sixteen years, while her husband rose through the ranks of the University.
In 1943, Gerty was appointed as the Associate Professor of Research Biological Chemistry.
In 1946, when Carl attained the position of chair in the new biochemistry department, Gerty was first offered the position of Professor, a position later consolidated after she became a Nobel Prize winner.
In 1947, they won the Nobel Prize, and two months later, Gerty rose to the rank of professor of Biological Chemistry. The Coris’ won the prestigious award for discovering the enzymes which help to convert glycogen to sugar and the reverse process through which sugar is converted to glycogen again.
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Among all her work, the most famous is the ‘theory of Cori cycle’ which explained the metabolism of glucose in the body. According to the theory, some portion of the carbohydrates, in particular glycogen is converted by the muscles to lactic acid which is then reconverted to glycogen by the liver so that it can be utilised by the muscles.
Awards & Achievements
Theresa was presented with ‘Garvan Medal’ which is an honour bestowed on women chemists of ‘American Chemical Society’.
She was offered a membership in ‘National Academy of Sciences’.
Gerty shares a star with her esteemed husband in the famous ‘St. Louis Walk of Fame’.
In 1946, the couple was presented with ‘Midwest Award’ jointly by the ‘American Chemical Society’. The following year, they received the ‘Squibb Award in Endocrinology’.
In 1950, Gerty received the ‘Sugar Research Prize’ and the ‘Borden Award’ the next year.
After she won the Nobel Prize, in the year 1952, President Harry Truman named her for the ‘National Science Board’ at the ‘National Sciences Foundation’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Carl and Gerty, who were fellow students, got married in the year 1920, just after graduation.
They went to United States, in the break of war and got citizenship in the year 1928. Their only son Carl Thomas was born eight years later.
In the year 1947, Gerty was diagnosed with Myelofibrosis which is an unusual disease of the bone marrow. Although the ailment which caused her great pain, she continued with her research work.
On 26th of October in the year 1957, she died of renal failure. Edward R. Murrow, the famous newsman documented her journey as a researcher, her dedication to science, and her professionalism and intellectual integrity.
The crater on moon was named as Cori after her.