For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. In this series, we illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season we focus on a different scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.
BONUS: The Resignation
In 1949, at the height of his career, Rustin McIntosh, the director of pediatrics at Columbia University’s Babies Hospital, submitted his letter of resignation. Dr. Scott Baird, who wrote a biography on Dorothy Andersen, takes us back to this pivotal moment, which occurred at the dawn of pediatric pathology in the United States. Through archival resources, Scott explores the institutional tensions that led to this abrupt resignation. At the eye of the storm is a character we’ve come to know well, perhaps the most important person working in pediatric pathology at the time: Dr. Dorothy Andersen.
E4: Breakfast in the Snow
In our final episode, we explore Dorothy Andersen’s legacy—what she left behind and how her work has lived on since her death. Describing her mentor’s influence on her life and career, Dr. Celia Ores gives us a rare look into what Dr. Andersen was really like. We then turn to researchers, doctors, and patients, who fill us in on the progress that has grown from Dr. Andersen’s initial work. These major developments include the discovery of the cystic fibrosis gene, the tremendous impact of the drug Trikafta, and the lifesaving potential of gene editing techniques.
E3: The Case of the Missing Portrait
A missing portrait of Dr. Andersen takes us on a journey into the perils of memorialization—and who gets to be remembered. Dr. Scott Baird hunts for the portrait, and Drs. Nientara Anderson and Lizzy Fitzsousa, former medical students at Yale, explain how, in today’s diverse communities, “dude walls” can have an insidious effect on those who walk past them every day.
E2: The Matilda Effect
A passionate outdoorswoman, a “rugged individualist,” and a bit of an enigma—the few traces Dr. Andersen left behind give us glimpses into who she was. In this episode, we track down people determined to stitch together her life. Our associate producer, Sophie McNulty, rummages through the basement of Dr. Andersen’s colleague for clues about the elusive pathologist. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, pediatric intensivist Scott Baird suggests we take a second look at the conventional wisdom surrounding the evolution of cystic fibrosis research in the 1950s.
E1: The Question Mark
When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she suspected the accepted diagnosis wasn’t right. Her medical sleuthing led to the world’s understanding of cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects the lungs, the pancreas, and a host of other organs. But hers is by no means a household name. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?
The Pathologist in the Basement: Trailer
When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she knew the accepted diagnosis couldn’t be right. Her medical detective work led to our current understanding of Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that circuitously impacts the pancreas and lungs. But she is by no means a household name, and the details of her life get scarcer every day. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?
Fabulous concept, well executed. I really like the voice of the host too, which is often a sticking point with me. Congratulations, all!
What a great idea for a show! The Matilda Effect episode was fascinating. Can’t wait for more. Telling all of my friends about this!
Inspiring story of a bright and compassionate physician, ahead of her time. I am fascinated and eager for future episodes. What a delightful random discovery!