Women of Valor

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Timeline

Gertrude Elion, 1918 - 1999

1918

Gertrude Belle Elion born in New York City to Bertha (Cohen) and Robert Elion, on January 23

1933

Grandfather dies painfully of stomach cancer, inspiring Elion to pursue a career in science

1937

Graduates summa cum laude from Hunter College, in New York

Applies to 15 graduate schools but, because of gender discrimination, is turned down by all for graduate assistantships

1938

Unable to find research job, volunteers in chemistry lab

1941

Receives M.S. in Chemistry from New York University

Fiancé Leonard Canter dies of a bacterial infection, a few years before penicillin becomes readily available

1942

Shortage of male scientists due to World War II enables Elion to find job as food chemistry analyst

1944

Begins working for George Hitchings at Burroughs Wellcome Co., a pharmaceutical company

1950

Synthesizes 6-Mercaptopurine (Purinethol), which cures childhood leukemia when used with later-developed medicines

1959

Opens field of organ transplantation when the immunosuppressant Imuran, which she developed, is used to transplant a foreign kidney into Lollipop, a German shepherd

1967

Becomes first woman to lead a major research group at Burroughs Wellcome when named Head of Experimental Therapy

1969

Receives honorary doctorate from George Washington University, the first of 25 honorary degrees

1970

Moves to North Carolina when Burroughs Wellcome relocates

1970s

Elion's lab develops acyclovir (Zovirax), the first medicine to treat viral infections

1983

Retires from Burroughs Wellcome but remains as Emerita Scientist and consultant

1984

Elion's lab uses her methodology to develop AZT, until 1991 the only drug licensed in the United States to treat AIDS

1988

Shares Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with George Hitchings, for development of rational method for drug design and discoveries in the principles of chemotherapy

1990

Elected to the National Academy of Sciences

1991

Receives the National Medal of Science, the United States' highest scientific honor

Becomes first woman inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

1999

Dies on February 21, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Gertrude Elion - Timeline." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/elion/timeline>.