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Maxine Singer

Maxine Singer helped shape the emerging field of genetics as a researcher, educator, and medical ethicist. Singer joined the National Institutes of Health in 1956 and began decoding DNA and RNA, investigating how codes that replicate and insert themselves along DNA chains contribute to certain genetic diseases. In 1967, she began considering the positive and negative implications of genetic manipulation and in 1975 helped write the Asilomar report, the guidelines for genetic research, which were made to adjust as scientific understanding of genetics grew. From 1980-87, she was chief of the Laboratory of Biochemistry at the National Cancer Institute, leading fifteen research groups. In 1988, she became president of the Carnegie Institution, a position she held for 14 years. To combat the lack of women and minorities in the sciences, Singer created Project First Light, a pilot program where Washington, DC elementary school students attend a creative Saturday science school at the Carnegie Institution; and in 1994, she began the Carnegie Academy for Science Education, which ran summer institutes for elementary school teachers and provided curriculum support throughout the school year. She has also written both textbooks and popular science books on genetics. Singer has received the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award and the National Medal of Science.


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The President of the United States recognized Maxine Singer's important contributions to biochemistry and molecular biology, her leadership of the Carnegie Institute and her science education initiatives, by awarding her the National Medal of Science "for her outstanding scientific accomplishments and her deep concern for the societal responsibility of the scientist."

Institution: Carnegie Institution

Date of Birth

Brooklyn, NY
United States

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Maxine Singer." (Viewed on March 28, 2020) <>.


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