Dr. Rose Epstein Frisch (1918 – 2015) 


Dr. Rose Epstein Frisch (1918 – 2015) 

Scientist who linked body fat to fertility 

46 Cape Bial Lane 

Born in the Bronx, Rose was fascinated from an early age by discoveries of Louis Pasteur and other scientists. She attended Smith College and, following her marriage to Princeton physics graduate David Frisch, earned a doctorate in genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During the Second World War, Rose worked alongside her husband for the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, NM. She served as a “computer,” a job title referring to a person, usually a woman, who worked during the day performing tedious calculations, processing data generated by men. Disillusioned by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they moved to Cambridge where her husband joined MIT and Rose raised their two children. 

Rose returned to the work force in her 40’s after her children were grown. With an interest in broader current problems such as population growth, she was hired by Harvard School of Public Health as a research assistant for four dollars an hour. 

 “I figured there was nowhere else to go but up.” (Rose Frisch) 

There were few female scientists at Harvard in the 1970s Moreover, the topics raised by her research into female fertility were “things not many people discussed.”  Her male colleagues often asked Rose “to take notes as if she were a secretary even though she was equally strong as a scientist.” (Dr. Berkman) 

In 1975 Rose began teaching a graduate course on female fertility as a lecturer, a non-professional slot typical for women teaching in the medical area at the time. When she was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship in 1975 the foundation asked for her salary: “When I wrote to them the amount, they called me up and said, ‘Not your monthly salary, your annual salary.’ That is my annual salary,” I replied.” As associate professor of population sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health, she wrote widely on female fertility and on the natural fertility of populations. Her publication “Female Fertility and the Body Fat Connection” highlighted issues faced by female athletes, swimmers, and ballet dancers. 

She and her husband first came to Westport in the 1950s, renting the Yeomans cottage. They bought their Cape Bial Lane home in 1956. Her son Henry recalls square dancing at the barn next door. Rose’s niece Linda married Paul McCartney.