Inventors are inspirational. Esther Miriam Zimmer Lederberg was an inventor, educator, microbiologist, and a pioneer of bacterial genetics. As a researcher, she made discoveries and invented replica plating. She maintained, named, and distributed varied plasmids.
Esther Miriam Zimmer was born on December 18, 1922 in Bronx, New York. She had one younger brother. Esther graduated with honors at 16 from Evander Childs High School. She worked at New York Botanical Garden while attending New York City’s Hunter College. She received her Bachelor of Arts in 1942, graduating cum laude. She became a research assistant at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. She published her first work in genetics at this time as well. In 1944, she won a fellowship to Stanford University. She moved to California to study at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station. She received her Master of Arts in 1946.
Esther married Joshua Lederberg, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, in 1946. Esther then began work on her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin. She completed her doctorate in 1950. That year she also discovered the lysogenicity of lambda bacteriophage. She remained at the University of Wisconsin during the 1950s. She made important discoveries and devised the first successful implementation of replica plating with her husband, Joshua Lederberg. They helped foster the genetic mechanism of specialized transduction. This laid the foundation for genetic work that followed. She returned to Stanford in 1959. She was founder and director of the Plasmid School of Medicine from 1976 to 1986. She retired from the Stanford Department of Microbiology and Immunology in 1985, but continued to run the Plasmid Reference Center for close to another decade.
Esther Lederberg held multiple professional memberships. She received many professional awards and honors as well. Esther had cultural interests beyond science. She was a musician and adored Early Music. She studied Renaissance and Elizabethan dance as well. She enjoyed symphonic music and opera. She was an avid reader. She enjoyed botany and botanical gardens.
Esther and Joshua Lederberg divorced in 1966. She remarried Matthew Simon in 1993. She passed away in 2006. Be inspired! Have a bright day!