In her small white farmhouse in Granby, Massachusetts, Abbie E. C. Lathrop bred a variety of small animals: ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and, most notably, mice. In 1902, her mice became the first to be used in a lab for genetic research—and some still are today.
Not a trained scientist, Lathrop is often cast as a mere footnote in the history of cancer research, portrayed as an eccentric hobbyist who was oddly attracted to mice. But a closer look shows that she was a savvy business woman turned self-made scientist, whose careful and methodical mouse breeding helped advance modern cancer research and create a standard organism of science. Moreover, she published scientific papers on mice and cancer inheritance that set the stage for future cancer research.