Ruth Hubbard

Hubbard, Ruth (1924-) is an Austrian-born American biologist and biochemist whose contributions to the study of the biochemistry and photochemistry of vision in vertebrates and invertebrates have greatly advanced the understanding of the field.

She is also an author and frequent lecturer on the politics of health care and the sociology of science, particularly as they relate to the subject of biologically based gender inequality.


Hubbard was born Ruth Hoffmann in Vienna, Austria, in 1924. The Hoffmanns emigrated to the United States in 1938, shortly after the Nazis invaded Austria. Her family settled near Boston, Massachusetts, and after graduating from high school there, she entered Radcliffe College. She married Frank Hubbard in 1942. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1944, with an A.B. degree in biochemical sciences. She began her career as a biologist doing research and working in clinical laboratories, and after several years of this, returned to Radcliffe as a graduate student and earned her Ph.D. degree in biology in 1950.

Hubbard worked and studied under a U.S. Public Health Service predoctoral fellowship at University College Hospital Medical School in London, in 1948. In 1950, she became a research fellow at Harvard University, and in 1952, received a Guggenheim fellowship at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark. She returned to Harvard in 1954 as a research fellow and ultimately became the first woman to receive a tenured professorship in the sciences there.

She divorced Frank Hubbard in 1951 and married long-time research associate George Wald in 1958. Her work with Wald brought about many important contributions to the understanding of the biochemistry and photochemistry of vision in vertebrates and invertebrates, for which they won the Paul Karrer Medal in 1967.

Hubbard is known for challenging the views of sociobiology which hold that gender inequality is biologically based and has written several books and numerous articles on these issues.