Women's History Month Spotlight: Gerty Cori
Start writing a post
Health and Wellness

Women's History Month Spotlight: Gerty Cori

The woman behind glucose metabolism

Women's History Month Spotlight: Gerty Cori

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have been highlighting significant women in the field of science and medicine. So far I have featured Henrietta Lacks and Rosalind Franklin, but now I’d like to talk about a woman whose fame has largely gone unnoticed. Unless you've take an advanced biochemistry course, you've probably never even heard of her.

Gerty Cori grew up in Prague, Czechoslovakia in the early 1900s. She was one of the only females in her medical school class at the University of Prague, graduating in 1920. It was in medical school that she met her future husband, Carl Cori. After marrying and working together in several clinics, they decided to move to the United States to avoid inevitable war in Europe. The pair moved to Buffalo, NY where Carl was hired as a researcher and Gerty was only given the title of his “assistant”. Sometimes the institution in Buffalo refused to recognize her achievements after publishing several papers, even leaving her name off of the lab's official stationary.

The two worked together to uncover how glucose is metabolized in the body, ignoring people above them who didn’t approve of a husband and wife working together. When publishing over fifty joint papers in Buffalo, the two decided that whoever contributed the most work to a paper would be first author. In addition, Gerty Cori authored over 10 individual papers there.

It was in Buffalo that their most famous scientific contribution was made. Named after its founders, the Cori Cycle describes the conversion between pyruvate and lactate and the liver and muscle (see below). Those who are not familiar with biology can recognize this process as the cramping that sometimes occurs during and after a workout.

The Coris wanted to move to a different research facility that specialized in their interests in glucose metabolism. Even though they had just published the revolutionary cycle, many places would only offer Carl a job. They thought that Gerty was a hindrance to his success as a scientist. Finally, the couple moved to St. Louis where Carl was given a research position at Washington University School of Medicine. Again, Gerty was only offered a job as a research assistant. She worked diligently in this demeaning position for sixteen years, until Carl became head of the biochemistry department and promoted her to full professor.

Just one year later, in 1947, Gerty and Carl Cori together won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering enzymes that convert between glucose and glycogen (the form of glucose that is stored for later use). The Coris also investigated the interaction between the pituitary gland and metabolism. The pair won numerous awards on top of their Nobel Prize.

Gerty Cori became the first woman in America to win a Nobel Prize in a science-related field, and only the third woman in the world to win any Nobel Prize (the other two were Marie Curie and her daughter, Irene). The pair was also the first married couple to win a Nobel Prize together. I guess working together wasn't such a bad idea after all!

Gerty Cori is a great example of a woman who didn’t let sexism deter her from her career goals. She persevered when others tried to degrade her intelligence and potential as a scientist, even accepting a lower position so she could continue doing what she loved. Further, the Coris are the perfect example of how a married pair should work to elevate each other’s goals. Carl never let his own job offers overrule Gerty’s desires, turning down any research institute who wouldn’t make room for her, too. Even though two semesters of biochemistry have left me cringing at the words "Cori Cycle," I can't deny that Gerty Cori was instrumental in our current understanding of how the body uses energy, and she deserves a lot more credit than she gets.

I'll leave this post with a quote from Gerty Cori that I think embodies female empowerment in the sciences:

“For a research worker the unforgotten moments of his life are those rare ones which come after years of plodding work, when the veil over natures secret seems suddenly to lift & when what was dark & chaotic appears in a clear & beautiful light & pattern.”

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

150 Words For Anyone Who Loves Football Games

Why I love high school football games, even though I don't like football.

Dallas News

When most think of high school they think of friend drama, parties, getting your drivers license, and best of all foot ball games.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Greatest Speeches In Modern American History

The United States is a relatively infantile nation, but its legacy of spoken rhetoric is one of the richest in the world.


Rhetoric, in all its forms, arrives under the scrutiny of historians both for its historical impact and literary value. Dozens of speeches have either rallied the nation together or driven it drastically apart –– the impact of speeches in politics, social movements, and wars is undeniable.

Keep Reading... Show less

What If The U.N. Actually United The Nations?

This is me taking a break from being cynical and imagining how the world could be one day.


By now, people are probably sick of hearing me talk about myself, so I’m changing it up this week. In keeping with the subject of my J-Term class, I’m asking myself a political what-if question. What if we could create a sovereign global government firmly grounded in justice that could actually adjudicate Earth’s many disparate nation-states into one unified world government?

Keep Reading... Show less

100 Things I'd Rather Do Than Study

Procrastination Nation, unite.

Panda Whale
Here are 100 things I'd rather to than study. I know the semester just started, but

    1. Watch a movie
    2. Take a nap
    3. Have a dance party
    4. Eat ice cream
    5. Bake a cake
    6. Cry just a little bit
    7. Knit a blanket
    8. Learn to ride a bike
    9. Build a crib
    10. Watch a hockey game
    11. Watch any game
    12. Play with my hair
    13. Dye my hair
    14. Go grocery shopping
    15. Learn to crochet
    16. Do 50 jumping jacks
    17. Drive cross country
    18. Take a bubble bath
    19. Squeeze lemons for lemonade
    20. Sell the lemonade
    21. Make heart-shaped ice cubes
    22. Moisturize my knees
    23. Paint my nails
    24. Find the cure for cancer
    25. Run a marathon
    26. Just kidding, run down the hall
    27. Squat my bodyweight
    28. Eat my bodyweight in French fries
    29. Hibernate until Christmas
    30. Cuddle my body pillow (unless you have a boo)
    31. Think about all the work I’m not doing
    32. Wash my bed sheets
    33. Vacuum my apartment
    34. Play mini golf
    35. Go swimming
    36. Tan in this Texas heat
    37. Sing like I’m about to win American Idol
    38. Blow up balloons
    39. Pop the balloons
    40. Make lists
    41. Write an Odyssey article
    42. Pet a puppy
    43. Adopt a puppy
    44. Pay my rent
    45. Order a pizza
    46. Start a garden
    47. Cook a turkey
    48. Find new music
    49. Clean my waffle iron
    50. Learn to make jam
    51. Jam to music
    52. Play scrabble
    53. Volunteer anywhere
    54. Celebrate a birthday
    55. Watch a makeup tutorial I’ll never use
    56. Go through old pictures on my phone
    57. Make a playlist
    58. Take a shower
    59. Clean my room
    60. Curl my hair
    61. Climb a rock wall
    62. Get a massage
    63. Play with Snapchat filters
    64. Roast a chicken
    65. Go fishing
    66. Chug some Snapple
    67. Ride in a cart around Walmart
    68. Count the days until the semester is over
    69. Overthink about my future
    70. Think of my future baby’s names
    71. Pin everything on Pinterest
    72. Text anybody
    73. Pray about life
    74. Watch a sunset
    75. Watch a sunrise
    76. Have a picnic
    77. Read a book (that’s not for school)
    78. Go to a bakery
    79. Snuggle a bunny
    80. Clean my apartment
    81. Wash my dishes
    82. Rearrange my furniture
    83. Physically run away from my problems
    84. Make some meatballs
    85. Learn to make bread
    86. Google myself
    87. Ride a Ferris wheel
    88. Get stuck on a Ferris wheel (that way, it’s not my fault I’m not studying)
    89. Wash my car
    90. Get on a plane to Neverland
    91. Find Narnia in my closet
    92. Jump on a trampoline
    93. Learn to ice skate
    94. Go rollerblading
    95. Ride a rollercoaster
    96. Carve a pumpkin
    97. Restore water in a third world country
    98. FaceTime my family
    99. Hug my mom
    100. Tell my friends I love them

    The Basics Of The United Nations

    As the General Assembly convenes, here is the United Nations 101


    For an organization that literally unites the nations, it amazes me how little is taught about the United Nations in schools, or at least where I went to school. It wasn't until I went to college and got a higher education that I learned the basics of the United Nations. I believe that every American should know at least the basics of what the United Nations does, especially since our country is one of the 5 permanent members. So here are the main "organs" of the United Nations.

    Keep Reading... Show less

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Facebook Comments