Cori Cycle

Gerty Cori’s father, suffering from diabetes near the end of his life, said to his daughter, “Find me a cure.”  In a brilliant collaboration that spanned many decades, Gerty and Carl Cori explored how the human body metabolizes glucose.  “Their development of the ‘Cori cycle,’ the biochemical process by which the body reversibly converts glucose to glycogen, explained how carbohydrates supply energy to muscles during exercise and how carbohydrates are regenerated and stored until needed again by the muscles.”  Their seminal work had a remarkable influence on others who were developing treatments to control diabetes.  In fact, the Coris, who shared a Nobel Prize for their work in 1947, educated at least seven others who would go on to be recognized with Nobels.  They spent almost all of their careers working at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

As great a scientist as she was, Gerty Cori suffered the disadvantages of being female in a man’s world of science. Although Carl was offered the chairmanship of the pharmacology department in 1931, Gery was not offered a regular faculty position.  She was appointed to a research position, which as she later said, “…when Carl and I first came here, they paid me 10 percent of what they paid him.”  Such were the conditions of work for women scientists in the 1930s in America and Europe. She was part of the outer circle.

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