Marjorie G. Horning

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Marjorie G. Horning
Marjorie Janice Groothuis

(1917-08-23)August 23, 1917
DiedJune 11, 2020(2020-06-11) (aged 102)[1]
Alma materGoucher College, University of Michigan
AwardsGarvan–Olin Medal (1977)
Scientific career
FieldsBiochemistry, Pharmacology
InstitutionsNational Institutes of Health, Baylor College of Medicine

Marjorie Janice Groothuis Horning (August 23, 1917 – June 11, 2020) was an American biochemist and pharmacologist. She was considered to be a pioneer of chromatography for her work in developing new techniques and applying them to the study of drug metabolism.[2][3] She demonstrated that drugs and their metabolites can be transferred from a pregnant woman to her developing child, and later through breast milk, from a mother to a baby. Horning's work made possible the prevention of birth defects, as doctors began to warn of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and smoking during pregnancy.

Early life and education[edit]

Marjorie Janice Groothuis was born in August 1917 in Detroit, Michigan, to Nina Jane Potter and Herman Groothuis. She studied at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1938. She then attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a Master of Science in 1940 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1943.[4]

She worked as a research assistant in the pediatrics department of the University of Michigan Hospital until 1945.[5]


Horning moved with her husband to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945, working there until 1951.[2]

In 1950, Evan was appointed Chief of the Laboratory of the Chemistry of Natural Products of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1951, Marjorie obtained a position as a research chemist at the National Heart Institute at NIH.[6][2] She remained there until 1961.[2]

In 1961, the couple moved to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Marjorie became an associate research professor at the Lipid Research Center at Baylor. She became a full professor of biochemistry at the Institute for Lipid Research at Baylor College in 1969. In 1981, she became an adjunct professor of biochemistry and biophysics at the University of Houston, held concurrently with her position at Baylor.[7][5]

She worked on the editorial boards of Drug Metabolism and Disposition, Analytical Chemistry, Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, the Journal of Chromatography, Trends in Pharmacological Sciences and Biopharmaceutics and Drug Disposition.[7][2]

In 1984, Horning became the first woman president of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET). She had previously served as secretary-treasurer from 1981 to 1982.[8][9] She was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[5]


Horning published more than 200 scientific articles about biochemistry, pharmacology, and analytical chemistry.[7]

Marjorie and Evan Horning were pioneers in the field of analytical biochemistry, in the application of gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and gas and liquid-mass spectrometric analysis.[10] They developed revolutionary techniques to study the metabolism of drugs and track breakdown products of drugs as they transform and travel throughout the body.[11] Marjorie helped to develop new methods of chromatographic analysis for the study of drug metabolism, including procedures for metabolic profiling and for the study of adrenocortical steroids.[12][13]

Horning investigated the metabolism of drugs and their metabolites in humans, with particular attention to prenatal transmission between a pregnant woman and an embryo or fetus. Her work showed that drugs and their degradation products travel between mother and child and can affect the unborn child.[11] Previous to her research, it had been believed that the placenta acted as a barrier. Her work resulted in changes in medical practice and the prevention of drug-related birth defects. As a result of her work, doctors in the 1980s began to warn women about the risks of taking medications, drinking alcohol, and smoking during pregnancy. Horning also determined that drugs and their metabolites can be passed from mother to child through breast milk.[11]

She was a long-term member of the Society of Toxicology[14] and worked with the National Toxicology Program, established in 1978 to identify toxic chemicals. Over 48,000 chemicals were used in the United States at the time, many in food additives, medicinal products, or household products.[15]

Awards and honors[edit]

Personal life[edit]

While a student at the University of Michigan, she met her husband-to-be, Evan C. Horning (1916-1993), a chemist and teacher. They married on September 26, 1942.[4]

Following her retirement in 1987, Marjorie Horning found more time to pursue her passion for art. She became an elected Trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston[20] in 1988, and later a Life Trustee in 2000.

The Hornings traveled widely for scientific conferences and collected art on many of these trips. Along with their friends Virginia and Ira Jackson, they provided early leadership of the Prints and Drawings Department at the MFAH, and Marjorie and Evan later donated their entire collection of over 300 Old Master and Modern prints and drawings to the Museum. Asian Art was another focus of their collecting, especially important Japanese woodblock prints. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Hornings had yearly residences in Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, and collected decorative arts that later transformed the Museum's Scandinavian design collection. Ever thoughtful philanthropists, the Hornings also established generous endowments to support these core collecting interests.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Marjorie Horning 1917 - 2020". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ettre, L.S.; Zlatkis, A. (1979). 75 years of chromatography a historical dialogue. New York: Elsevier Scientific. pp. 141–151. ISBN 9780444417541. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  3. ^ Gehrke, Charles W.; Wixom, Robert L.; Bayer, Ernst (2001). Chromatography a century of discovery 1900-2000 : the bridge to the sciences/technology (1st ed.). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science. p. 29. ISBN 9780080476506. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  4. ^ a b Engelwald, Lane; Frank, Hartmut (July 1, 2018). "Marjorie Groothuis Horning: Biochemist, Pharmacologist, and GC Pioneer". LCGC. 36 (7): 474–476. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Wayne, Tiffany K. (2011). American women of science since 1900. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 520–521. ISBN 9781598841589. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Married couples in science at NIH". The Stadtman Way: A tale of two biochemists at NIH. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d "1987 Tswett Chromatography Medals awarded to Horning, Ishii, and Sjövall". Journal of High Resolution Chromatography. 10 (9): 531–532. September 1987. doi:10.1002/jhrc.1240100915.
  8. ^ Cohen, Marlene L.; Brevig, Holly; Carrico, Christine; Wecker, Lynn (2007). "Women in ASPET: A Centennial Perspective" (PDF). ASPET. 49 (4). Retrieved 10 February 2017.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Rossiter, Margaret (2012). Women Scientists in America. ; Forging a New World since 1972. Baltimore [u.a.]: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 251. ISBN 978-1421403632. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  10. ^ a b Rabjohn, Norman (March 15, 1994). "Evan C. Horning June 6, 1916 - May 14, 1993" (PDF). Organic Syntheses. 73: xxv–xxvi. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 March 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  11. ^ a b c Stanley, Autumn (1993). Mothers and daughters of invention: Notes for a revised history of technology. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 564. ISBN 9780813521978. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  12. ^ Ettre, Leslie S. (1979). "Evan C. and Majorie G. Horning". 75 years of Chromatography a Historical Dialogue. Journal of Chromatography Library. 17. pp. 141–150. doi:10.1016/S0301-4770(08)60644-2. ISBN 9780444417541.
  13. ^ a b Nier, Keith A.; Yergey, Alfred L.; Gale, P. Jane (2015). The Encyclopedia of Mass Spectrometry Volume 9: Historical Perspectives, Part B: Notable People in Mass Spectrometry. Elsevier Ltd. pp. 79–80. ISBN 978-0-08-100379-4. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  14. ^ "Society of Toxicology Communique Special Issue" (PDF). Society of Toxicology. 2004.
  15. ^ a b "Alumni Activities". The Michigan Alumnus. June 1980. p. 24. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  16. ^ "Frank H. Field and Joe L. Franklin Award for Outstanding Achievement in Mass Spectrometry". ACS Chemistry for Life. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Tswett Chromatography Medals". Analytical Chemistry. 59 (17): 1001A. September 1987. doi:10.1021/ac00144a716.
  18. ^ "Professional Awards". IOTA SIGMA PI National Honor Society for Women in Chemistry. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  19. ^ "Francis P. Garvan-John M. Olin Medal". American Chemical Society.
  20. ^ "Annual Report 2013-2014". Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Retrieved 10 February 2017.