Maud Lenora Menten
One of the first Canadian-born women to become a medical doctor, Maud Lenora Menten, was born on March 20th in 1879. She was educated at the University of Toronto earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in the early 1900s. Her research for the next few years centered on investigating the use of radium bromide in the treatment of cancer cells in rats while working as a fellow at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
She returned to Toronto to study medicine, becoming an MD in 1911, after which she traveled to Berlin, Germany to work with biochemist Leonor Michaelis and enzyme kinetics, or the motion of the biological molecules that help complex reactions occur everywhere in life. Working together they developed the Michaelis-Menten hypothesis that was used to explain the mechanism and velocity of reversible reactions between enzymes and their substrates, which is the molecule the enzyme is acting on. As part of their hypothesis they created the Michaelis-Menten equation that includes the Michaelis constant and all these pieces were formally presented in 1912-1913 as Michaelis-Menten Kinetics.
While working in cancer research at the University of Cleveland, Menton earned her doctorate in biochemistry in 1916 and obtained a position at the University of Pittsburg. She was later promoted to a professor of pathology. In her career she published over seventy papers that included investigating the mobility of proteins in the presence of electric fields, now called electrophoresis, which is currently used for DNA and RNA analysis. She also contributed to the discovery of a dye based reaction that tests for the presence of certain enzymes in the kidneys that can indicate renal and liver function. This was a major development in the field of histochemistry, which is the staining of cells with chemicals that enable the creation of color and contrast in microscopic images making them easier to study.
Menten retired from the University of Pittsburg in 1950 but continued her research until her health made that impossible. She passed away in 1960 and was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1998.
Suggested By: Madeleine Jacobs
Written by Angela Goad