Gertrude Elion, 1918 - 1999
Gertrude Elion was an enormously productive and successful chemist. In addition to treatments for leukemia, the herpes virus, gout, and immunity disorders, she also helped to develop medications for arthritis, malaria, and bacterial infections, among other diseases. At a time when biochemical knowledge was far more limited than it is today and when many of our current sophisticated scientific instruments had yet to be invented, she and Hitchings were able to create remedies for some terrible medical problems.
Elion and Hitchings' revolutionary approach to drug development, based on an understanding of the chemical composition of disease and healthy cells and the differences between them, has become standard in pharmaceutical research. In years to come, scientists will be able to use their methods in search of cures for the world's remaining scourges, including the cancer Elion had always hoped to vanquish.
When Elion died on February 21, 1999, the head of Glaxo Wellcome observed astutely, "Gertrude Elion's love of science was surpassed only by her compassion for people." Her generous heart and brilliant mind touched countless individuals around the world. In the drugs she developed, the scientists she influenced, and the young people she inspired, she left a legacy that will benefit humanity for years to come.
- Quote beginning "Gertrude Elion's love of science...." from Glaxo Wellcome Press Release at Elion's death, February 22, 1999, accessed April 4, 2000 from http://www.invent.org/pr22299.html