Martha McClintock '69

Alumnae Achievement Awards 1998

Martha McClintock '69
Discoverer of pheromones in humans

Martha McClintock, a world-renowned biopsychologist at the University of Chicago, began her study of the relationship between social interaction and biology while she was a senior at Wellesley College. She was awarded the National Science Foundation internship at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine during the summer of 1968, and it was there that she learned about mammalian pheromones and the synchronization of estrous cycles in mice. Upon her return to Wellesley, she began her own study of human menstrual synchronicity. Her study, “Menstrual Synchrony and Suppression,” was published in 1971 in the journal Nature and thus began the study of human pheromones, which were previously unstudied.

After she completed her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1974, McClintock received a postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health and was able to return to the study of hormones and human behavior. She joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1976, and she is currently the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology. McClintock has continued to study the effects of pheromones on human behavior, and in 1998, her research showed that pheromones could be used to control ovulation. In 2001, she completed a study that was published in Hormones and Behavior, which described the effects that steroids produced by men and women could have on the mood and behavior of the opposite sex.

McClintock has won several awards for her groundbreaking work, such as the MERIT award from the National Institutes of Mental Health, the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and the University of Chicago’s Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. McClintock is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Animal Behavior Society, the American Psychological Society, the American Psychological Association, the International Academy of Sex Research, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Martha McClintock is married to pediatric geneticist Joel Charrow and has two children.


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