Gerty Cori

This week in Mailbox: the mystery lady from September’s quiz is revealed and we find out the names of the four winners who will receive small gifts from Radio Prague for their correct answers. Also, you get a unique chance to share your memories of the tumultuous events of 1989 with all our listeners around the globe. Listeners quoted: Uday I. Nayak, Kristina Pletková, Colin Law, Jason Meader, S. J. Agboola, David Eldridge, Hiroshi Katayama, Charles Konecny, Richard Chen, Constantin Liviu Viorel, Daniel Gutierrez, Hans Verner Lollike.

Welcome to the first Mailbox in October. This means the name of September’s mystery person is about to be revealed. The Prague-born Nobel Prize winner was not Marie Curie nor Milena Jesenská but rather:

“Gerty Theresa Cori. The three great personalities who won the Nobel Prize in the year 1947 are: Gerty Theresa Cori, Carl Ferdinand Cori, and Bernardo Alberto Houssay.”

... our listener Uday I. Nayak from India wrote in the very first e-mail to arrive after the question was first announced.

Kristina Pletková listens in South Bohemia:

“The mystery woman born in Prague in 1896 who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1947 is Dr. Gerty Theresa Cori. As one of a few female students she attended medical school at the German Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. In 1922 she emigrated together with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori to the United States to pursue medical research at the ‘State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases’ in Buffalo, New York. In 1928, they became naturalized citizens of the United States.”

Colin Law from New Zealand as usual sent a very detailed answer full of interesting facts, and, sadly, too long to quote in full:

“Gerty was the first of three girls born to Otto and Martha Neustadt Radnitz. Otto was a sugar refinery manager and his work may have influenced Gerty’s early interest in chemistry and her later choice of scientific focus. In those days girls were not expected to attend university, but Gerty persevered in following her dream to become a chemist. She had to pass a special entrance exam to prove her knowledge of Latin, literature, history, mathematics, physics, and chemistry before she could enter the medical school of the University of Prague in 1914. There she met Carl Ferdinand Cori, also born in 1896, who shared her interest in scientific research. In 1920 they graduated and received their MD degrees.”

Jason Meader listens in Florida:

S. J. Agboola from Nigeria also stresses the importance of the marriage of two scientists:

“Her marriage to a fellow professional led the family to greater achievements in the medical field. She and her husband were prolific writers. She personally authored many publications while she also co-authored many others with her husband. She had an array of awards to her credit. In fact, she was a woman who was able to tread where others feared to go.”

David Eldridge writes from the United Kingdom:

“Gerty and Carl Cori were best known for their work on carbohydrate metabolism. Gerty Radnitz met her husband to be Carl Cori whilst attending medical school in the University of Prague. They married after graduation in 1920 and shortly afterwards she converted from Judaism to Catholicism. They first moved from Prague to Vienna and in 1922 to Buffalo in the United States. Her family background was Jewish and she experienced the effects of anti-Semitism in Prague and Vienna. In the United States gender discrimination had a significant detrimental effect on her career. Apart from receiving the Nobel Prize, Gerty Cori is also honoured by having craters on the moon and on Venus named after her... In April 2008 the US Postal Service issued a 41 cent stamp featuring Gerty Cori though it is said there is a small error in the chemical formula for glucose-1-phosphate (Cori ester) shown in the background of the stamp.”

Hiroshi Katayama from Japan is also aware of the mistake on the stamp:

“In Japan, she is not a well-known woman, I think. But I’ve known her through one of my hobbies – collecting postage stamps. The stamp featuring Gerty Cori was issued in March 2008 in the United States of America. The stamp has a fatal printing error in the chemical formula.”

Charles Konecny writes from Ohio:

“She credited any contribution she made to science to the benefits of a European education followed by the freedom and opportunities in the United States. Europe and the U.S. are part of the picture but I think Heaven also enters in, as Gerti and Carl’s marriage seemed to have been made there. They were two people working closely together for all those years, sharing their research, accomplishments, and awards, and through it all seemed to be a very devoted couple.”

Richard Chen is our regular listener in Trinidad & Tobago:

“Gerty Theresa Cori together with her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1947 for their discovery of the course of the catalytic conversion of glycogen and were awarded half the prize. The other winner Bernardo Alberto Houssay of Argentina received the next half for another discovery relating to the metabolism of sugar.”

Constantin Liviu Viorel writes from Romania:

Daniel Gutierrez writes from Massachusetts:

“Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori was the third woman to win a Nobel Prize. She could be considered the first Czech woman to receive such an award but because she became a United States citizen in 1928 she is commonly attributed to be the first American woman to become a Nobel laureate. Gerty Cori received many awards during her life. One of the most notable ones is probably her appointment to the Board of Directors of the U.S. National Science Foundation in 1959 by President Harry Truman.”

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark wrote:

“Gerty Theresa Cori is the woman born in Prague, who received part of the Nobel prize in 1947. Now I ask myself after finding out month after month about persons born in your country, who ended up being famous elsewhere in the world, aren’t there any persons born elsewhere who ended up becoming famous in your country?”

That’s a very good point. As Gerty Cori has been the 60th mystery Czech in the Mailbox quiz, it may be time to make a little change. Not that I’m not well stocked-up on world-famous people born in this country but there are indeed a great number of those who came from far and wide to create their works of art or make scientific discoveries in this small country in the heart of Europe. It’s definitely a field worth exploring.

But now I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Let me announce the names of the four listeners who have been picked out of the hat this time to receive small prizes for their correct answers:

They are: Uday I. Nayak from India, Jason Meader from the United States, Richard Chen from Trinidad and Tobago and Sudip Chakraborty from Italy. My congratulations and your parcels are in the post.

And finally a brand new quiz question:

In October we are looking for the name of the illustrator born in 1934 in Ústí nad Labem into a Czech-German family. He is probably best-known for designing the characters in the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine based on the music of the Beatles.

The address for your answers is as usual [email protected] or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic and the deadline is October 31st.

On a different note, the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution which peacefully ended forty years of communist rule in Czechoslovakia is fast approaching and we are asking you, the listeners to share your memories of those days when history was being made.

Do you recall the refugee crisis at the West German embassy in Prague where thousands of East Germans sought asylum on their way to freedom, the mass protests in the streets of Prague and the election of dissident-playwright Václav Havel the country’s first post-communist president?

Please, let us know where and how you heard the news and how you were affected by it. Radio Prague will select the best letters and interview the listeners in question over the phone. Your memories will enhance Radio Prague’s special programming devoted to the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.

Please send your letters to:

Radio Prague – English department

Vinohradská 12

120 99 Praha 2

Česká republika

Or you can email them to: [email protected]

Thank you for listening today and until next week, take care.