Ask an average biochemist who was the first to realize that variant proteins could be detected by electrophoresis and sedimentation, and had used this understanding to recognize different forms of haemoglobin, the reply would probably refer to Linus Pauling and his work on sickle cell disease. Yet, although this work was certainly important, that would be the wrong answer, because Maud Leonora Menten, who sometimes seems to be remembered for one paper only, had this idea several years before him, and used it to recognize the differences between foetal and adult haemoglobin1. She was unfortunate, however, in that her paper appeared in war time, and was eclipsed a few years later by a far more high-profile study2.

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