Women's Activism NYC

Virginia H Holsinger

1937 - 2009

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Virginia H. Holsinger, 72, a retired Department of Agriculture research leader, died on Sept. 4. Born in Washington, D.C., Holsinger received a B.S. in chemistry from the College of William & Mary in 1958 and a Ph.D. in food science and nutrition from Ohio State University in 1980. She began her research career as an analytical chemist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service Dairy Products Laboratory in Washington, D.C. Then, in 1974, she transferred to USDA's Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pa., where she led a program on the chemistry and technology of milk and dairy foods until her retirement in 1999. Holsinger developed a whey-soy drink mix that was shelf-stable enough to serve as a milk replacement in international food donation programs. She was also part of the team that demonstrated that adding the enzyme lactase to milk could make it more digestible by lactose-intolerant people by breaking the disaccharide into galactose and glucose. This work led to the commercialization of products such as Lactaid. Through enzyme fortification of milk powder, Holsinger developed a low-lactose milk-based beverage for use in military field rations. Her research also led to the development of a natural mozzarella cheese with half the fat of previous products. Holsinger authored or coauthored more than 100 scientific papers. In addition to being honored with many awards from agricultural and food chemistry groups, she received the Distinguished Service Award of the ACS Division of Agricultural & Food Chemistry in 1986 and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Women in Science & Engineering, presented by the National Science Foundation in 1995. She was an emeritus member of ACS, joining in 1959.

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