The museum is named after Marian Elliot Koshland (1921-1997), a National Academy of Sciences member who made major contributions to the field of immunology and molecular biology. Her career included work on the cholera vaccine and groundbreaking research in the behavior of antibodies.
Marian’s direct, hard-working, and confident approach to life and scientific research was greatly influenced by her upbringing in New Haven, Connecticut. There, she excelled in school with the support of her father, a hardware salesman, and mother, a teacher, while enjoying a tomboy lifestyle. Marian’s interest in science was sparked by her younger brother, who suffered a weakened immune system from typhoid fever, making him vulnerable to frequent illness throughout his childhood.
Due to her family’s limited financial resources, Marian supported herself through undergraduate school at Vassar College with scholarships, a 4-year job, and by sewing her own clothes. She then pursued her graduate degree at the University of Chicago, a choice influenced by the inexpensive train ticket from Connecticut and the university’s reputation. There she met her husband Daniel Koshland, also a research scientist. Married 52 years, they raised a family of five (including twins) while both pursuing research and teaching careers.
Marian’s academic posts included positions at Harvard Medical School; Brookhaven National Laboratory; and the University of California, Berkeley. Marian also served on various committees for Haverford College, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Academy of Sciences. She was a member of numerous organizations, including the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Association of Immunologists (serving a term as president).
Marian was devoted to improving public understanding of science, which she pursued throughout her career as a teacher. As a contributor to Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering, published by the National Academies Press in 1997, Marian shared her vision and commitment to helping young people in science. As a role model and advocate for the role of women in science, Marian led by example; a mother of five who excelled at scientific research and discovery. The Marian Koshland Science Museum was developed in her memory through a gift to the National Academy of Sciences by her husband, Daniel Koshland.
If you would like more information about the life and work of Marian Koshland, please read her biographic memoir.