Valentina Suntzeff (1891-1975)

Valentina Suntzeff, 1954
Valentina Suntzeff, 1954

Valentina Suntzeff was born on February 28, 1891 in Kazan, Russia. The daughter of a physician, Suntzeff decided at an early age to become a doctor. She graduated from the Women’s Medical Institute in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in 1917, just before the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution. Suntzeff worked briefly as a physician for an industrial company in Perm, Russia before being mobilized as a physician for the Army. In August 1920 Suntzeff, her husband Alexander, and her daughter emigrated to Harbin, China. After three years in China, part of which was spent as a physician at the Central Hospital in Harbin, Valentina Suntzeff and her family left for San Francisco where a relative had settled. Neither Valentina nor her engineer husband could find work in their chosen fields in San Francisco. After four years, Alexander Suntzeff found work in St. Louis and the family moved there. In 1930 Valentina Suntzeff began as a volunteer researcher in the Pathology Department of the Washington University School of Medicine, joining the staff as a research assistant in Pathology after several months.

Suntzeff preferred to work as part of a research team. Her collaboration with biochemist Christopher Carruthers led to their discovery of a fundamental difference between the chemical composition of cancerous and normal tissues. Over the course of her career, she co-authored over 90 scientific publications. Suntzeff retired as research associate professor emeritus in Cancer Research and lecturer in Anatomy in 1959, but she continued to carry on cancer research for another fifteen years.

Related Resources:

Back to Biographies