Mildred Cohn

Biochemist Mildred Cohn used new technology to measure organic reactions in living cells. Cohn graduated high school at fourteen and earned a BS from Barnard in 1931 and an MS from Columbia in 1932. She worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a precursor of NASA, but was eventually banned from the lab because she was a woman. She returned to Columbia, earning her PhD in 1937 for studying organic reactions using isotopes. Cohn struggled to find employment, but in 1946 she began working at Washington University under Carl and Gerty Cori, who allowed her to pursue independent research. She built a mass spectrometer and studied cell metabolism and ATP, the chemical compound that transfers energy within cells. In 1958 she became an associate professor at Washington University, and in 1960 she joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. Cohn was the first woman editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and served as president of the American Society of Biological Chemists. In 1964 she became the first woman to receive the American Heart Association’s Lifetime Career Award, which provided support until she turned sixty-five. Her many honors included the American Chemical Society’s Garvan Medal and the National Medal of Science.


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When Mildred Cohn (1913 – 2009) received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University in 1937, job postings at the university stated clearly: “Interviewing all Ph.D. candidates, male and Christian.” Eventually she became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the first woman on the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Institution: Mildred Cohn.

Date of Birth

New York, NY
United States

Date of Death
Chemist, Professor, Editor

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Mildred Cohn." (Viewed on August 8, 2020) <>.


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