Gertrude Elion's accomplishments over the course of her long career as a chemist were tremendous. Among the many drugs she developed were the first chemotherapy for childhood leukemia, the immunosuppressant that made organ transplantation possible, the first effective anti-viral medication, and treatments for lupus, hepatitis, arthritis, gout, and other diseases. With her research partner, George Hitchings, she revolutionized the way drugs were developed, and her efforts have saved or improved the lives of countless individuals.
Although Elion herself cared far more about the practical outcome of her lab's collective work than about her own reputation, her achievements earned her one of the highest honors a scientist can receive: the Nobel Prize in Medicine. She overcame enormous obstacles to reach this pinnacle. Battling longstanding prejudices against women in science, she initially had trouble even getting a job, but a combination of brilliance, determination, and stubbornness brought her to the top of her profession. She was the fifth female Nobel laureate in Medicine, the ninth in science in general, and she reached this height without earning a Ph.D.
Elion worked tirelessly to convey the fun and excitement of science to students of all ages and to encourage children—especially girls—to pursue scientific careers. She was very pleased to be featured as a Way Cool Scientist by Bill Nye the Science Guy, creator of an award-winning television show aimed at interesting children in science.
For more on Elions career, go to JWAs Women of Valor exhibit.
1. Which of Dr. Elions accomplishments does this card highlight?
2. How did an initial failure turn out to be very successful in Elions research?
3. Why was acceptance in the field of science so difficult for women?
4. How might this card stimulate a childs interest in science?