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Thu, 01.17.1924

Jewel Plummer Cobb, Biologist, and Educator born

Jewel Plummer Cobb

*Jewel Plummer Cobb was born on this date in 1924. She was a Black Educator and Research Scientist.

Jewel Plummer was born in Chicago to physician Frank and Carrabelle (Cole) Plummer, a schoolteacher.  Her grandfather, a freed slave became a pharmacist, initiating four generations of medical practitioners. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Talladega College in 1944. She earned a Master of Science from New York University in 1947. Awarded a Ph.D. in cell physiology from New York University in 1950, she has served as a researcher, a college professor and administrator, as well as a staunch supporter for greater minority participation in scientific careers.  In 1954 Jewel Plummer married Roy Cobb, an insurance salesman, they had one son.

Much of Cobb's research was focused on the skin pigment melanin, and her most significant research has been with testing new chemotherapeutic drugs in cancer cells, the impact of which continues. She has held several teaching and administrative positions at major universities. From 1960 to 1969, she was a professor at Sarah Lawrence College. Dr. Cobb was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1974. From 1969 to 1976 she served as Dean and Professor of Zoology at Connecticut College. She has been the trustee professor since 1990 and, since 1991, director of the ACCESS Center at California State University in Los Angeles. Formerly president of California State University in Fullerton (1981–1990), Dr. Cobb has done extensive cancer research, specializing in cell biology, and was a member of the National Science Board from 1974 to 1980.

Although her interest in biology could have led her to become a medical doctor, Cobb was not interested in working directly with the sick. She was, nonetheless, interested in the theory of disease, an interest that later led her to become one of the leading cancer researchers in the United States. Cobb is the recipient of several honorary doctorates and many awards, including the Kilby Award for lifetime achievement in 1995.

A supporter of equal access to educational and professional opportunity, Cobb has written often about racial and sexual discrimination in the sciences, and has raised funds to allow more minorities to enter into the field. Since her retirement, Cobb, who was named President and Professor of Biological Science, Emerita at California State University at Fullerton and Trustee Professor at California State University at Los Angeles, has continued her research.

She resided in Maplewood, New Jersey, until her death on January 1, 2017 at the age of 92.  Jewel Plummer Cobb is survived by her only child, Roy, a radiologist.

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