#GAReads | Esther Lederberg and Her Husband Were Both Trailblazing Scientists. Why Have More People Heard of Him?
Esther Lederberg is standing on an ornate carpet in Stockholm, wearing a ruched gown and a rather serious expression. It’s an unusual getup for the pioneering scientist, who more often wore a lab coat and a wry grin. But it is also an unusual night. The year is 1958, and Lederberg, 35 years old, has been invited to a tony ceremony in Sweden not as a bacterial geneticist but as a wife. Alongside other spouses, she will look on while three men—her first husband, her mentor and another research partner—are jointly awarded the Nobel Prize, for work connected to her own.
“It’s this group of four people who worked on things,” says Rebecca Ferrell, a biologist who has researched Lederberg’s life. “The three guys get the prize, and she gets to put on gloves and a long gown and watch.”