1 Neuroscientist, 2 Genders

Before he knew his colleagues would embrace his transition, Ben Barres weighed a difficult decision: come out as transgender or commit suicide.
Born Barbara, the Stanford University neuroscientist died last year from pancreatic cancer. In his posthumously published autobiography, Barres charts 2 very different scientific lives lived by a single person.

In his career, Barres made significant contributions to the study of glial cells. As Barbara, he endured pervasive assumptions about women in a male-dominated field. But as Ben, colleagues respected him.

The transition cracked open “as nothing else could the barriers that stand in the way of women scientists,” writes Elizabeth Svoboda.

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