Sarah Stewart (cancer researcher)

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Sarah Stewart
Sarah Stewart MD nci-vol-1921-300.jpg
Sarah Stewart, MD PhD.
Born (1905-08-16)August 16, 1905
Tecalitlán, Jalisco, Mexico
Died November 27, 1976(1976-11-27) (aged 71)
New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Citizenship  United States
Institutions United States Public Health Service
Alma mater Georgetown University School of Medicine
Known for first describing the Polyomavirus

Dr. Sarah Stewart (August 16, 1905-November 27, 1976) was a Mexican American researcher who pioneered the field of viral oncology research.


Early life and education[edit]

Sarah Elizabeth Stewart was born on August 16, 1905 in Tecalitlán, Jalisco, Mexico.[1] She did her undergraduate work at the New Mexico State University, graduating with a Bachelors of Science in 1927. She went on to earn a Master's degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1930 and a Ph.D in microbiology from the University of Chicago in 1939. In 1949, she became the first woman to be awarded an MD Degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine.[2]


Stewart developed an interest in researching viral links to cancer in light of the pioneering research of Jonas Salk in developing a vaccine for the virus which caused polio. Stewart is credited with discovering the Polyomavirus in 1953.[2] She and research partner, Dr. Bernice E. Eddy, were successful in growing the virus in 1958 and the SE (Stewart-Eddy) polyoma virus is named after them. Stewart was the first to successfully demonstrate that viruses causing cancer could be spread from animal to animal.[3]

Death and afterward[edit]

Dr. Stewart died of cancer at her home in New Smyrna Beach, Florida on November 27, 1976.[4] A collection of her papers is held at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. [5]


  1. ^ Cancer Research, Sarah Stewart, Obituary, Volume 37, 4675
  2. ^ a b Biography from
  3. ^ Stanley, Autumn. Mothers and Daughters of Invention, Page 165. 1993, Rutgers University Press.
  4. ^ Smith, J. Y. (1976-12-08). "Dr. Sarah Stewart, Cancer Researcher, Dies". The Washington Post. p. C15. 
  5. ^ "Sarah E. Stewart Papers 1927-1977". National Library of Medicine.