Episode Description

The medical detective work of Dr. Dorothy Andersen, a pathologist and pediatrician, led to our current understanding of Cystic Fibrosis. But who was she?

Listen to our inaugural season, “The Pathologist in the Basement,” about Dorothy Andersen, a physician and pathologist who solved a medical mystery when she identified and defined cystic fibrosis in 1938. A passionate outdoorswoman, a “rugged individualist” and a bit of an enigma, Andersen changed the way we understand acute lung and gastrointestinal problems in young children.

When Dr. Dorothy Andersen confronted a slew of confounding infant deaths, she knew the accepted diagnosis couldn’t be right. Her medical detective work led to our current understanding of Cystic Fibrosis, a disease that circuitously impacts the pancreas and lungs. But she is by no means a household name, and the details of her life get scarcer every day. Who was this scientist, and how did she come to quietly make such an important medical contribution?

This podcast is distributed by PRX and published in partnership with Scientific American.

Episode Transcript

Katie Hafner

Host & Executive Producer

Katie Hafner was a longtime reporter for The New York Times, where she continues to be a frequent contributor. Katie is uniquely positioned to tell the stories of lost women of science. Not only does she bring a skilled hand to complex narratives, but she has been writing about women in STEM for nearly 30 years. She is the author of six books of non-fiction, and her first novel, The Boys, was published in July 2022 by Spiegel & Grau. Katie is also the host and executive producer of Our Mothers Ourselves, an interview podcast that celebrates extraordinary mothers.