Dr. Maud L. Menten Memorial Lecture Series

Information about Dr. Menten


Dr. Maud Leonora Menten (1879-1960) was born in Port Lambton, ON and earned four degrees, including a BA, MB, MD, and PhD in Biochemistry. Notably, she was one of the first women to graduate with an MD in Canada (1911). She became a fellow at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in New York and did an internship at the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. After research stints in Germany and the US, she then joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pathology in 1918 as an instructor and faculty member. During her time at this university, she also practiced at the Elizabeth Steel Magee Hospital and then the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as a pathologist. She retired from her duties in the US in 1950 and pursued research at the British Columbia Research Institute for only a few years before permanently retiring. In addition to her commitment to research, teaching, and medical patients, Dr. Menten played the clarinet, was an accomplished painter, and spoke several languages.

As a biochemist and physician, Dr. Menten made ground-breaking contributions to biomedical research and published over 100 papers. Her work impacted biochemistry, medicine, histochemistry, and pathology, and several of her findings are still in use today. She is best known for the Michaelis-Menten equation that provides a mathematical means for determining the rate of an enzyme reaction. During her time at the Rockefeller Institute, she co-produced its first monograph about the effect of radium bromide on tumours. Another of her firsts includes the collaborative discovery of the different mobilities of adult and fetal hemoglobins subjected to electrophoresis. She also co-developed the azo-dye coupling reaction for detecting alkaline phosphatase, a marker of kidney and renal health. This major finding facilitated the progression of enzyme histochemistry.

Dr. Menten encountered many obstacles and biases in her career because she was a woman in the male-dominated realm of scientific research. Almost half her life took place during a time when Canadian law was widely interpreted as stating that women were not persons. In addition, women did not have privileges and rights equal to those of men, during that time. For most of her career, Dr. Menten worked in the US since no academic position was available to her in Canada. Sadly, she was not given full credit for many of her innovations and achievements. For example, some scientists today believe that she was the sole creator of the famous Michaelis-Menten equation. On the publication for this work, she is shown as “Miss Maud L. Menten”, even though she had an MD (her PhD came 3 years later). In addition, the innovative use of electrophoresis to show mobility differences in hemoglobins has been attributed to Dr. Linus Pauling from his work on sickle cell anemia, rather than to Dr. Menten and her collaborators. Finally, even with her outstanding track record in scientific research, no awards were bestowed on her during her lifetime, and she was only given a full professorship in her late sixties.

Dr. Menten represents a pioneer in science and a role model for biomedical trainees, especially women. Her determination, grit, and passion for research drove her to great achievements, even amid a backdrop of biases against women. Unfortunately, much of what she endured is still encountered today by women in science. We have come a long way since the era of Dr. Menten, but we also have a long way to go for female scientists to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. 

-written by Dr. Lynn Weir, 2023

Post-humous Recognition

  • An induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame  
  • A sculpture of her in the main lobby of the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research at the University of Toronto. The inscription identifies her as one of the ten giants of biomedical science who began their careers or established their reputations at the university.  
  • A plaque outside the Medical Sciences Building of the University of Toronto in recognition of her work and accomplishments (Ontario Heritage Foundation) 
  • The Dr. Maud L. Menten Memorial Lecture Series in the Dept. of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario 
  • The annual Maud L. Menten Lecture and the Maud L. Menten Professorship in Experimental Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh 
  • A commemorative bronze plaque in Port Lambton, ON 


Lecture Series

The Dr. Maud L. Menten Memorial Lecture Series is held annually by the Department of Biochemistry. This series honours the scientific legacy of excellence of Dr. Menten, the obstacles she faced as a female in science, and her determination to overcome those obstacles. Two mini-symposia and at least eight lectures will be held each year. The speakers are expected to be active, high-profile scientists of diverse identities and are nominated by the Department of Biochemistry community. Invitations are sent after selection of the speakers by the Dr. Maud L. Menten Memorial Lecture Series Committee. 

How to Nominate a Speaker

If you wish to nominate a potential speaker, please send a nomination letter and the speaker's CV to Neiven Timothaws (neiven.timothaws@schulich.uwo.ca).


For more information about the seminar series, contact Neiven Timothaws (neiven.timothaws@schulich.uwo.ca).