Sarah Ratner

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Sarah Ratner
Sarah Ratner.jpg
Born (1903-06-09)June 9, 1903
New York City
Died July 28, 1999(1999-07-28) (aged 96)
Fields Biochemistry

Sarah Ratner (June 9, 1903 – July 28, 1999) was an American biochemist. Her contributions to the study of nitrogen metabolism led to a better understanding of human disorders in urea synthesis. In 1961, Ratner was awarded the Garvan–Olin Medal from the American Chemical Society and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1975.[1]


Early life[edit]

Ratner's parents had immigrated to America from Russia well before the end of the 19th Century. Along with her twin brother, Sarah was born June 9, 1903, the youngest and only daughter of the five children born to the family. Of all the children, only Sarah would pursue a scholarly career.


Ms. Ratner was accepted to Cornell University in 1920 as a chemistry major. As the only woman in most of her classes, and due to her shy nature, she had a difficult time sharing her experiences and ideas with her colleagues.[2]

When a graduate student in the early 1930s, the study of biochemistry was mainly preoccupied with physiology and organic chemistry. Ratner herself started her academics pursuing organic chemistry but later gravitated towards biochemistry. She was accepted as a Ph.D. student by H. T. Clarke in the Department of Biochemistry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) at Columbia University. The admission requirement to the department at the time was simply to "survive an interview with H.T., at the end of which the potential student was immediately informed of the outcome." [3]


After graduating in 1924, Ms. Ratner was employed at the laboratory in New York City at the Department of Pediatrics at the Long Island College Hospital. In 1932 she collaborated with C. A. Weymuller in the study The acid-base metabolism of a normal child on diets that increase in fat content.[4] Together, they discussed the "seventeen different analytical methods were used for determination of a wide variety of parameters in blood serum and feces." [5]

In late 1936, she sought to pursue postdoctoral research work but was met with resistance based on her gender.

She had the support of a Macy Research Fellowship from 1937 to 1939, and from 1939 to 1946 earned the academic titles of instructor and assistant professor at Columbia University's P&S.

Following her work in 1942 with D. E. Green on amino- and hydroxy acid oxidases, and on a peptide form of p-aminobenzoic acid [6] she became interested in new aspects of nitrogen metabolism.

In 1946, Ratner was hired as an assistant professor of pharmacology at the New York University School of Medicine. The following year she published a book on the mechanism of the formation of arinine from citrulline, a subject which would occupy her studies for the next four decades.

Ms. Ratner eventually joined the Department of Biochemistry at the Public Health Research Institute of New York where she remained a member of the staff until her retirement in 1992 at the age of 89.


  1. ^ Oakes, Elizabeth H. (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists (Revised ed.). Infobase Publishing. pp. 618–619. ISBN 978-0-8160-6158-7. 
  2. ^ Ronald Bentley, [1] National Academic Press, 2003
  3. ^ Bentley, p.224
  4. ^ Am. J. Dis. Children 43:1092-1100; cited in Bentley, p. 223, 237
  5. ^ Bentley, p.223
  6. ^ Bentley, p.227