A PROFESSOR of human genetics at Salisbury District Hospital has been awarded one of the highest honours a scientist can get.

Patricia Jacobs has been elected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. She will be inducted into the academy in April with two other British scientists – Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and Sir Peter Mansfield, a joint Nobel Laureate who discovered the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.

She said: “It is a great honour to receive this award and become one of the relatively few foreign members to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. It is also a great pleasure to be rewarded for the research I have so much enjoyed carrying out all my working life.”

Professor Jacobs started to make her mark in 1959 as a young researcher when she first discovered that maleness in humans was due to the Y chromosome, a fundamental finding that has influenced all human genetics research. Her research has included the contribution of chromosome abnormalities to learning difficulties, miscarriages and behaviour.

In 1988 she took up the post of director of the Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratory at the hospital, where she has led a wide range of groundbreaking research projects that have given geneticists a greater understanding of a number of complex genetic conditions.

Dr John Barber, deputy director and head of Cytogenetic Services at the hospital, said: “Professor Jacobs is already a Fellow of the Royal Society and an OBE in the UK, but this new award recognises more than 50 years of outstanding research, which is still being carried out at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust in conjunction with the University of Southampton School of Medicine.”

Professor Jacobs’ husband, Professor Newton Morton, is also a member of the academy, making them one of the very few husband and wife teams to have been honoured in this way.