Elizabeth Crosby

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Elizabeth Crosby

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Elizabeth Crosby at the Women's Research Club 75th Anniversary celebration.

At the age of 90, Elizabeth Crosby traveled twice a month between the University of Michigan and the University of Alabama to consult the Medical School and to conduct research, respectively.1 Crosby taught neuroanatomy in the Department of Anatomy from 1920 to 1958 in Ann Arbor. Despite her lack of a medical degree, she was the first woman to become a full professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. She was also the first woman to give the Henry Russel Lecture, which is the highest honor given to University of Michigan senior faculty.2

Elizabeth Crosby researched comparative neuroanatomy, which compared vertebrates to discover how the human brain evolved and functions. President Jimmy Carter awarded Elizabeth Crosby the National Medal of Science in 1980 for her groundbreaking research in this field.2 The Elizabeth Crosby Award has honored students and faculty for their excellence in the basic sciences since 1957.3

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She once reported, "Some women feel discriminated against. I never have. I feel only grateful for my time on the campus. I tried hard and I never asked for a raise or a promotion, but always got one. I just had a good time."5 Later in life, Crosby did acknowledge how many pioneering women in academia did face discrimination.

Among her many accomplishments, awards, and honorary degrees, she was a member of the Women's Research Club where she presented her 1917 thesis "The forebrain of Alligator mississippiensis," which would become an essential work in comparative neuroanatomy for decades. She continued researching and working well into her 90s. Today it is clear that Elizabeth Crosby's contributions to the fields of anatomy and neuroscience are immeasurable. 

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Elizabeth Crosby lecturing on neuroanatomy.



1. "Her Career is Going Strong in Medical Schools at 90," NRJA News Bulletin, January 1979, Box 1, Elizabeth Caroline Crosby Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 

2. "UM's Crosby: a woman of 'firsts,'" University Record (January 28, 1980), Box 1, Elizabeth Caroline Crosby Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.

3. "Elizabeth Crosby Award," accessed June 20, 2016, http://www.umich.edu/~galens/awards-honoraries.shtml.

4. "Elizabeth Caroline Crosby" displayed in Bentley Historical Library's Tappan's Vision exhibit, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 

5. "Dr. Crosby, 90, grateful," Ann Arbor News, August 15, 1978, Box 1, Elizabeth Caroline Crosby Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.