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Frances Oldham Kelsey


Frances Kathleen Oldham Kelsey, CM was a Canadian-American pharmacologist and physician. As a reviewer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), she refused to authorize thalidomide for market because she had concerns about the drug's safety. Her concerns proved to be justified when it was shown that thalidomide caused serious birth defects. Kelsey's career intersected with the passage of laws strengthening FDA oversight of pharmaceuticals. Kelsey was the second woman to be awarded the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President John F. Kennedy.


  • General 

  • Birth and education 

  • Early career 

  • Work at the FDA and thalidomide 

  • Later life and death 

  • Legacy and awards