Gertrude Elion revolutionized the ways drugs are developed and received the Nobel Prize in Medicine even though she never earned her PhD. Struggling to find work as a chemist at a time when few women were welcome in the field, Elion chose to focus on her practical work in the lab rather than continue her education. Both alone and with her partner, George Hitchings, she helped develop the first chemotherapy for childhood leukemia, the immunosuppressant that made organ transplantation possible, the first effective anti-viral medication, and treatments for many other diseases. Elion was spurred throughout her career by the losses of her grandfather, fiance, and mother, and prized her contact with patients and their families over the official honors she received. She also believed strongly in mentoring and supporting those under her, encouraging them to publish and ensuring they received credit for their work instead of taking the credit she would normally be given as head of the lab where the work was done. The year after her retirement, Elion’s lab created AZT, the groundbreaking treatment for AIDS, based on her contributions.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Gertrude Elion." (Viewed on March 20, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/elion-gertrude>.