Portraits in influence

Tuesday April 2 will be the 2013 Katherine D. McCormick lecture at Stanford, making today a good day to say a few things about Mrs. McCormick.  She was the second woman to attend MIT and the first to graduate with a degree in science.  As an undergraduate, McCormick fought for the right not to wear a hat in chemistry lab (the feathers were prone to catch on fire!) and for women to have the right to vote.

Born in 1875 into a wealthy family and married in 1904 into another wealthy family, she had enormous resources to back her philanthropy.  She changed the world by bankrolling the endocrinology research that led to the development of oral contraceptives.

When she died in 1967, she left $5 million to Stanford for the benefit of women medical students and doctors.  (Her gift is the equivalent of $35 million today).  This endowment now funds an endowed faculty chair, seed grants for female faculty, fellowships for postdocs, and the annual Katherine D. McCormick Lecture.

What was McCormick’s connection to Stanford? It turns out that her husband Stanley, who was schizophrenic, received care from Stanford’s School of Medicine at the family estate in southern California.  (Her husband’s illness and his care is another story entirely and is at the center of Riven Rock a novel by T. C. Boyle).

Katherine D. McCormick

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About wormsense

wormsense is the alter-ego of Dr. Miriam B. Goodman, a sensory neurobiologist seeking to understand the sense of touch and to improve careers for women scientists.
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