George Herbert Hitchings, Jr., was born in 1905 in Hoquiam, Washington. As was true for Elion, his early interest in science was reinforced by personal experience, in this case the illness of his father when Hitchings was 12 years old. After receiving his BA and MA from the University of Washington, he got a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Harvard; he then taught for several years before joining Burroughs Wellcome at 37. As the sole member of the Burroughs Wellcome biochemistry department, he was able to set up his laboratory and direct the research as he wished. Elion was his second assistant, but the staff grew quickly in subsequent years.