Isabella L. Karle: A Crystallography Pioneer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The life and work of crystallography pioneer Isabella L. Karle is recounted (1921-2017), as researched from the literature and personal stories of colleagues and family. Her story includes her family background, education at the University of Michigan, research on the Manhattan Project, and 63 productive years at the Naval Research Laboratory. Her life-long partnership and scientific collaboration with husband Jerome Karle, 1985 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry with Herbert Hauptman, is a big part of her story; however, Isabella has also established herself as a crystallographer extraordinaire through her Symbolic Addition Procedure to solve the phase problem, and her unique ability to solve the structures of complex biological molecules, including toxins, antibiotics, and peptides. Her rich family life with three daughters in a lake-front home, do-it-yourself attitude, and passions outside of science round up this portrait of a fascinating and brilliant woman.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-847
Number of pages5
JournalDNA and cell biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Isabella Karle
  • Nobel prize
  • X-ray diffraction
  • biography
  • crystallography
  • phase problem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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