Rosalyn Yalow was born in New York in 1921. In 1945, she earned her doctoral degree in physics. She initially began working as a consultant in the radiotherapy department of the Veterans Administration Hospital in the Bronx, where she set up the first radioisotope laboratory in the United States. In 1970, she was appointed head of the department of nuclear-medicine and simultaneously served as a research professor at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
In 1950, Yalow began to do research, together with Salomon Berson. Through the use of radioisotopes, they developed methods for measuring blood volume and the dispersion of serum-proteins in body tissues, as well as for the diagnosis of thyroid gland diseases.
In 1977, Rosalyn Yalow received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, “for the development of radioimmunoassays of peptide hormones.” Her research partner, Salomon Berson died prior to that time, and therefore did not share it with her.
The radioimmunoassay method measures precisely the amount of hormones and other natural substances that are found in very low concentrations in the blood. This method is used for the early detection of various viral diseases, certain types of cancer and as a diagnostic tool for identifying blood diseases. It is also used by blood banks for testing donor blood.
Rosalyn Yalow’s achievements have opened up hitherto unexplored areas of study and brought about new approaches in science and medicine.