Rebecca Lancefield

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Walter Bauer, Rebecca Lancefield, and Maclyn McCarty.

Rebecca Craighill Lancefield (January 2, 1895 – March 1, 1981) was a prominent American microbiologist. She joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York in 1918, and was associated with that institute throughout her long and outstanding career. Her bibliography comprises more than 50 publications published over 60 years. Her main achievements lie in her work on group A streptococci and their association with rheumatic fever.

She is most famous for her serological classification of beta-hemolytic streptococcal bacteria,[1] Lancefield grouping, which is based on the carbohydrate composition of bacterial antigens found on their cell walls.[2] She is also responsible for the serological typing of Group A Streptococci. Typing classification is based on the M protein found on the group A bacterium's surface.

Early life and education[edit]

She was born at Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island, New York. She had five sisters. She was educated at Wellesley College, Massachusetts and Columbia University, New York. At Columbia, she received her Ph.D. in 1925. She married Dr. Donald E. Lancefield, a fellow graduate student in Genetics at Columbia.


Eventually, she became professor of microbiology at Columbia University from 1958-1965. In 1943, she was the second woman to become president of the Society of American Bacteriologists. In 1961, she became president of the American Association of Immunologists, the first woman to be president of that Association. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970. In 1973, she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) by Columbia University.

Applied bacteriology[edit]

Dr. Lancefield's recipe for eggnog has been used by her fellow scientists for decades and was published on Science Friday[3] in 2008.

Death and legacy[edit]

In 1980 on Thanksgiving Day, Lancefield broke her hip and was not able to fully regain her mobility. She died the following year in 1981 at 86 years of age.


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