|Membership level: Hall of Fame|
Mary-Dell Matchett Chilton Ph.D.
Inductee Year 2009
|Following her graduation from HTHS in 1956, where in addition to high school awards in Latin and Science, she earned a National Merit Scholarship, Dr. Chilton went on to study Chemistry at the University of Illinois, receiving her Ph.D. in 1967. Her career has been devoted to the study of plant molecular biology, and today she is considered one of the top researchers in her field and a true pioneer in the field of genetic engineering. She is best known for her crucial discovery in 1977, while on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, that a bacterium that attacks plants, or Agrobacterium, had the property of naturally being able to transfer DNA between itself and corn plants.
That discovery implied that genetic material could be manipulated by scientists to produce improvements in various plants, thereby making genetic engineering a reality. Her contributions have revolutionized the growing of corn, soybeans and cotton, and garnered for Dr. Chilton what some consider the most important distinctions in the entire field of science: the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences, the John Scott Medal, the Rank Prize, and election into the National Academy of Sciences. In 1983, Dr. Chilton founded the Biotechnology Division of CIBA-Geigy Corp., now Syngenta, a major Swiss company with world-wide interests in various agricultural products. She continues her research today at Syngenta's facility at the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where she holds the title of Syngenta Science and Technology Fellow. This Inductee, respected throughout the world in her field, lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.