Jessie L. Ternberg Oral History


Reference code


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Jessie L. Ternberg Oral History


  • May 8, 1978 (Creation)


0.05 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

Jessie L. Ternberg, PhD, MD, received her undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in 1946 and her doctorate in biochemistry from University of Texas in 1950. During her time at Texas, she and Robert Eakin discovered the mechanism by which the vitamin B-12 is absorbed in the intestine. She received her medical degree from Washington University in 1953 and interned at Boston City Hospital after graduation. Ternberg returned to Washington University for her research fellowship and surgery residency at Barnes Hospital becoming the first female resident in surgery at Barnes Hospital and Washington University. She joined the faculty in 1959 as an instructor of surgery, eventually reaching full professorship in 1971 as professor of surgery and associate professor of surgery in pediatrics. She was the first female surgeon on the faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine. In 1972, Ternberg was appointed as the chief of the newly created Division of Pediatric Surgery. She was the first woman to be elected head of the faculty council. On her retirement in 1996 she was made professor emerita of surgery and surgery in pediatrics.

Throughout her career, Ternberg made significant contributions to medicine in her research. Her best-known study is the appliance of electron spin resonance spectrometry to the investigation of free radicals. She also published A Handbook of Pediatric Surgery in 1980, which became a standard reference book for doctors due to its emphasis that children must be treated different from adults since diseases take different form in adolescents. Ternberg received wide recognition, including awards such as the Washington University Alumni Award, the International Women's Year Award for Health Care, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Woman of Achievement Award and membership in Alpha Omega Alpha. Washington University School of Medicine established the Jessie L. Ternberg Award in 1998, which is given annually to a female medical school graduate who best exemplifies Ternberg's "indomitable spirit of determination, perseverance and dedication to her patients."

Name of creator


Biographical history

Estelle Brodman (1914-2007) served as an Assistant librarian for reference service at the National Library of Medicine, 1949-1961. She became the Library Director and Professor of Medical History at Washington University School of Medicine in 1961, and served in these positions until her retirement in 1981. Brodman served as the Editor of the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association from 1947-1957, and as President of the Medical Library Association, 1964-1965.

Scope and content

Interviewed by Estelle Brodman in 1978. Approximate Length: 2 hours and 40 minutes.

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The collection is open and accessible for research.

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Conditions governing reproduction

Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

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"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

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Archivist's note

© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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