Florence Sabin
Anatomist & Public Health Reformer 
By Kathleen McFadden 

     In 1900, Florence Sabin became the first woman to graduate from Johns Hopkins Medical School. Luckily for Florence, she studied under Franklin Mall, an anatomy professor who was able to see past gender and recognize Florence's extraordinary talent and aptitude for science. Mall became Florence's mentor and encouraged her interest in anatomy, a science that was undergoing rapid transformation at the turn of the century. 

     Previously, anatomy had been purely descriptive and concerned with learning the names and locations of the internal organs. But the push was on to learn the hows and whys, and Florence was in the forefront of the research revolution. She began teaching anatomy at Johns Hopkins in 1902 and spent her non-teaching time in the lab. She focused on embryology and made important discoveries about the development of blood cells and the lymphatic system, showing that they develop from buds on the veins of an embryo. 

     In 1917, she was named a full professor, the first woman to achieve that rank at Johns Hopkins, and in 1924 she was elected the first woman president of the American Association of Anatomists and the first lifetime woman member of the National Academy of Science. In 1925 she moved to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research as head of the Department of Cellular Studies and continued her work on the lymphatic system, blood vessels, and cells, and also concentrated on tuberculosis research. 

     Florence retired in 1938, but six years later when she was in her 70s, the governor of her home state of Colorado asked her to chair a subcommittee on health. She accepted the challenge and threw her energies into the task of reforming the state's public health system via the Sabin Health Laws. Then in 1948 she took on a public health management role in Denver and donated her salary to medical research. 

     Thirteen years after her original retirement, Florence retired again. A statue of Florence, donated by the state of Colorado in 1959, stands in the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall. 

     She was born on November 9, 1871 and died in 1953.