3 reasons why Barbara McClintock is a perfect fit for the new $10 bill

Written by Don Gibson

Mock up from Barbara on the Bill Project

On June 16th the US Treasury Department announced for the first time in over 100 years that a woman will be on paper money. A team of UC Davis scientists have launched a campaign to put the only woman to single-handily win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine – Barbara McClintock.

1. McClintock was a prolific scientist

Over the course of her 60+ year career, McClintock established many cornerstones of genetics. She was one of the most prolific researchers in the field of genetics from the 1920s to 1950s. Without a doubt, she was also the most insightful researcher in the history of genetics. She did all of this during a time when people did not know what “DNA” did and their concept of “genes” was in its infancy. McClintock discovered that genes are on chromosomes and that chromosomes are fluid structures in the cell that can be re-arranged, crossed over to exchange material, and that some genes can “jump”.

2. Show that America values science

The $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills have a theme: old male politicians. A nation’s values is represented by the images people see every day on their money. Breaking from the trend would show another value many of us hold – creating amazing science. The United States has sent a man to the moon, unlocked the atom, and decoded the human genome but has yet to show a scientist on its currency. America has contributed so much to science that we often forget to acknowledge the individuals who spend their lives devoted to answering the questions of human-kind and helping to make people’s lives better.
For every $1 dollar the US government spent on the Human Genome Project it was projected that the economic return on investment would be $141. But over the last 15 years, US funding for science has become stagnant. Putting a scientist on the $10 bill will remind citizens and politicians (who control science funding) that science is important in America.

3. Address disparities & discrimination that still exist in science

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are some of the most segregated job fields left in the United States. Even in June 2015, sexist remarks are still made publicly about women scientists. Gender equality in science has come a long way, but there is much work to be done. A 2012 study showed that science faculty have a bias towards male students. Barbara McClintock almost left science altogether in 1941 when she was threatened to be fired if she ever got married. Women continue to leave science rather than advance in academia – a 2007 study found that 45% of postdoctoral fellows in biomedical science are women, but women make up only 29% of the tenure-track investigators and 19% of tenured senior investigators.
Americans need to see that science is not just for men. Many things need to be done to improve the workplace to ensure that half the population is able to fully engage in these fields. But one thing can be done now – with your support, we can put a woman of science on the $10 Bill.
Lean 7 more reasons to put Barbara on the Bill  or sign our petition now!
You can also show your support by liking the project’s Facebook page BarbaraTheNew10 or follow them on Twitter @BarbaraTheNew10.

Written by Guest Expert

Don Gibson is a PhD student at UC, Davis. He’s a molecular biologist with specialization in plant science and experience in biotechnology startups and political organizing. Don is currently studying fundamental aspects of root development using Arabidopsis and tomato as model organisms.

Science & Society


  1. I love this idea. I would only like to add some gorgeous corn to to the imagery.

  2. Dear Mem, As you are the unchallenged queen of researching details. What were the lady’s views regarding economics? Would she be honored or offended by having her photo on currency that has no backing? The printing of excess amounts of such causes inflation. Did she even think having a central bank is a good idea? While I have no problem with her being on the currency. I wonder what she might think. Have fun with this.

  3. Criterion? Nope. Just my way of expressing disgust about the currency situation and at the same time wondering just what she may have thought. I really don’t know much about her. I s’pose having failed to get you to do my work. I’ll have to look a bit myself.

  4. Eric, in high school, I had two suffer through reading “The Age Of Jackson”, which made it all too clear that the seventh president was no fan of the idea of a national bank. But President Jackson’s picture has been on the $20 bill for many decades. So I think we have established a precedent – a person is featured on currency based on his/her accomplishments, without regard to what they think about printed money.

  5. Hey Charles, I also remember suffering through the “””accomplishments””” of Andrew Jackson. You are correct about his opinion of a central bank. However considering his illegal invasion of Florida and his Trail of Tears crimes. Perhaps we should not pay much attention to any precedent having to do with Jackson. So, would putting this scientist on the currency alongside the likes of Jackson be an honor or an insult? I was originally hoping that I could manipulate Mem into posting an interesting article or 2 about her. Now I am really not sure how she would react.

  6. As much as this is a good choice, is still find myself rooting for Eleanor Roosevelt.

  7. Yes sir, it is. However, with what will they pay? Yet more of the unbacked currency? Will they take it from the “””social security trust fund?””” I apologize for hijacking the discussion of into economics. I was just curious about the views and still have dial up. Bottom line is that she is likely Way more deserving than most presidents.

  8. Philip Finn, I found this because I am on the mailing list. So, required very little effort. Further Mem does research stuff in great detail and I live way out in the boondox. So stuff loads painfully slowly. Also if you think I posted some fiction. Please be more specific. Then I will show you to be Incorrect. Finally your post did actually accidentally serve a purpose. I will be in several locations with WiFi this week and will google her.

  9. You’re assuming so many sinister things! Eric and Mem know each other and share interests in the same field of science. Everything Eric said was perfectly logical in the context of a friendship. Trolling has zero to do with their exchange.

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