Jewel Plummer Cobb

Jewel Plummer Cobb was born in Chicago on January 17, 1924 to Frank V. and Carriebel (Cole) Plummer. She is the great-granddaughter of a freed slave, granddaughter of a pharmacist and daughter of a physician and physical education and dance teacher. She matriculated in the University of Michigan in 1942, but, unsatisfied with segregated housing for African American students at Michigan, she transferred to Talladega College in Alabama where she graduated with a BA in biology in 1945. She was initially denied a fellowship for graduate study in biology at New York University because of race. However, following a personal interview she was granted the fellowship and received her PhD degree in cell physiology from NYU in 1950. Jewel held post-doctoral positions at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and the National Cancer Foundation.

Jewel's research included work on the relationship between melanin and skin damage, and on the effects of hormones, ultraviolet light, and chemotherapy agents on cell division. She directed the tissue culture laboratory at the University of Illinois from 1952 to 1954 and continued her research as a faculty member at NYU from 1956 to 1960, and at Sarah Lawrence College from 1960 to 1969. In recognition of her research achievements she was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1974. She was a member of the National Science Board from 1974 to 1980.

She was on the cover of a Time Magazine, Special Edition, as Scientist of the Year.

Jewel's career in academic administration began in 1969 at Connecticut College where she served as Dean of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Zoology. In 1976 she became Dean of Douglass College of Rutgers University, and was also a Professor of Biological Sciences. She served at Rutgers until 1981 when she was appointed President of California State University, Fullerton where she remained until her retirement. Following her retirement she was named California State University Trustee Professor at California State University, Los Angeles.

During and following her presidency at Cal State Fullerton, she received twenty-two honorary degrees, and was on the boards of several large corporations.

In WOODS HOLE: In 1949, Jewel was appointed an independent investigator at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. She began spending summers in Woods Hole, and eventually bought a summer home where she gave elegant parties bringing together interesting groups of people including her many summer guests and her son, Jonathon.

Jewel Cobb has been especially encouraging and helpful to young women who wanted to pursue a career in science. She is now fully retired and lives in New Jersey.