Physician, scientist, and professor of medicine, Jessie Marmorston’s research in the connection between hormone secretion and cancer contributed to medical knowledge on the psychophysiological link between stress and disease in humans.
Born in Kiev, Russia, on September 16, 1903, Jessie was the daughter of Aaron and Ethel (Wark) Marmorston. The family immigrated to the United States in 1906. After attending public school, young Jessie enrolled at the University of Buffalo, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. In 1924, She graduated from the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.
Immediately following her academic career in Buffalo, Marmorston began an internship at Montefiore Hospital in New York City. At Montefiore, Marmorston met David Perla, a fellow intern. A shared interest in pathology and immunology grew steadily into a personal relationship. Married in 1933, the couple’s professional relationship led to a collaboration which culminated in their publication in 1926 of The Spleen and Its Relation to Resistance.
Companions, partners, and collaborators—Perla and Marmorston’s future was cut short when Perla died an untimely death in 1940 at age forty. With their three daughters, Edith, Elizabeth, and Norma, Marmorston left her home in New York in 1943 to begin a new life in California, where she joined the faculty of the University of Southern California Medical School. In California, Marmorston met Lawrence Weingarten, a Hollywood producer, whom she married in 1945.
While at USC, Marmorston received a series of research grants from the United States Public Health Service to support her research in endocrinology. Ten years after her appointment at USC, she became professor of experimental medicine. From 1957 until her death in 1980, Marmorston served at USC as clinical professor of medicine.
An accomplished author in the field of medicine and medical research, Marmorston wrote on immunology, endocrinology, bacteriology, pathology, psychoanalysis, experimental medicine, clinical methods, cardiology, and the use of computers in medical research. Among her many publications Marmorston wrote Natural Resistance and Clinical Medicine (1941). As coauthor, Marmorston contributed to Psychoanalysis and the Human Situation (1984), Manual of Computer Programs for Preliminary Multivariate Analysis (1965), and Scientific Methods in Clinical Studies (1970).
From 1952 to 1959, Marmorston investigated the relationship between hormone secretion and heart attacks in women, concluding that small amounts of estrogen administered to postmenopausal women could decrease the incidence of heart attack. Continuing her studies on endocrinology in the 1960s, Marmorston’s work in the connection between lung cancer and hormone secretion revealed a connection between emotional stress, the production of hormones, and how the two created a psychophysiological basis for some cancers.
A member of numerous national, international, and regional medical and scientific organizations, Marmorston served her profession and her community with distinction. For thirty-six years, Marmorston served as an attending physician at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles—a position she also held at Los Angeles County Hospital.
Marmorston died in Los Angeles on October 21, 1980, at age seventy-seven. One of millions of immigrants who arrived in the United States during the golden age of immigration, Marmorston’s life work serves as an example of the contributions of Eastern European Jewish immigrants—and Jewish women—to arts, science, and letters in the United States in the twentieth century.
BEOAJ; WWIAJ (1938); WWWIA 7.
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Rego, David Alan. "Jessie Marmorston." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/marmorston-jessie>.