Women & Science Portrait Initiative
Rebecca C. Lancefield, Ph.D.
Rebecca Lancefield began her research on streptococci as a technical assistant with Rockefeller scientist Oswald T. Avery in 1918. At that time little was known about these bacteria, including the link between strep infection and more serious illnesses. Over the course of her career, Dr. Lancefield devised a system for identifying and classifying streptococcal bacteria. This system, still in use today, laid the groundwork for understanding the clinical course of strep infections and how they are transmitted.
Dr. Lancefield received her bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. in immunology and bacteriology from Columbia University. She spent the majority of six decades of research at Rockefeller, rising to professor in 1958, and co-leading the Laboratory of Bacteriology and Immunology with Dr. Maclyn McCarty. She was the first woman elected president of the American Association of Immunologists and one of the few women, at that time, elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Lancefield was the recipient of many awards, including the New York Academy of Medicine Medal.