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Gertrude Belle Elion (January 23, 1918, New York, USA – February 21, 1999, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA) was an American scientist, biochemist, and pharmacologist.
See the fact file below for more information on the Gertrude B. Elion or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Gertrude B. Elion worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Gertrude was born to a Jewish immigrant family (her father emigrated at the age of 12 from Lithuania, her mother at the age of 14 from Russia).
- Her family suddenly became poor because of Wall Street Crash of 1929.
- This is what she said about her early childhood: “I was born in the city of the Big Apple on a cold January night,” Gertrude recalled, “when the water in the radiators froze and water literally tore them apart. My father immigrated to the United States from Lithuania at the age of twelve, graduated in New York, graduating from a dental school at New York University in 1914. And my mother came from Russia, came to the States at the age of 14, and already at the age of 19 married my father. For the first seven years, we lived in a large apartment in Manhattan, where my father also had a dental office. ”
- Her grandfather died from cancer when she was fifteen years old. This tragedy affected Gertrude very much and she decide to become a doctor. Gertrude Elion really wanted to cure this disease.
- Exactly she said: “One of the decisive factors that influenced the choice of a profession was the illness and death of a beloved grandfather who died of cancer when I was only 15 years old. I decided then that when I grow up, I will do everything possible to learn how to heal people from this terrible disease. ”
- But despite all the dramas, Gertrude said that she had a happy childhood spent in Bronx zoo, playing and walking with her younger brother.
DISCOVERIES AND INVENTIONS
- After high school, she went to Hunter College and graduated in 1937 with a degree in chemistry.
- She graduated from New York University in 1941 – she was the only female candidate. She received a Master of Science degree in chemistry.
- When she was studying, she had to work as a teacher in a high school during the daytime.
- Gertrude got rejected fifteen times because of her gender when she applied for a job.
- She wasn’t allowed to obtain a graduate research position and had to work at the A&P supermarkets as a quality supervisor.
- Gertrude also had to work at the food laboratory in New York. Her job was to test the acidity of pickles and to check the color of the egg yolk that was used in mayonnaise.
- A little later, Gertrude Elion started working at the Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company as an assistant to George H. Hitchings.
- George had a strong belief that he could trick cancer cells by treating them with artificial compounds for growth so they could be destroyed and the normal cell will stay alive.
- At that time, she developed two anti-cancer drugs called thioguanine and 6-MP.Elion never formally defended her thesis for a Ph.D. degree but despite this, she later received honorary doctoral degrees from George Washington University, New York University Polytechnic Institute (1989) and Harvard University (1998).She worked at Burroughs-Wellcome pharmaceutical company till 1984, and made a great career:
- Elion was an assistant biochemist (1944–50), deputy director for research (1955–62), director of research (1963–66), and head of the experimental therapy department (1966–83), in which there was new medical drugs research in chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, immunology, and virology. The department also included a cell culture laboratory.
- Elion also collaborated with the National American Oncological Institute. From 1970, she has been a professor of pharmacology at Duke University. Elion was a consultant to the US Public Health Service, chairman of the Gordon Biochemistry Conference, and a member of the scientific council of the American Cancer Institute.
- Here is a list of drugs Gertrude Elion developed: mercaptopurine (anti-leukemic drug), immunosuppressant azathioprine, allopurinol (used for gout), antimalarial drug pyrimethamine, trimethoprim, and acyclovir (antiviral drug used to treat herpes).
- In 1988, Gertrude Elion shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine “for the discovery of important principles of drug therapy” with George H. Hitchings and Sir James Black.
- This is what Gertrude thought about winning a Nobel Prize: “People ask me often (was) the Nobel Prize the thing you were aiming for all your life? And I say that would be crazy. Nobody would aim for a Nobel Prize because, if you didn’t get it, your whole life would be wasted. What we were aiming at was getting people well, and the satisfaction of that is much greater than any prize you can get.”
- Grateful America also noted her outstanding achievements: she was awarded the National Medal for her contribution to science, and George Washington University awarded her the honorary degree of Ph.D.
- Gertrude once told these words to all the future scientists: “Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it. In my day I was told women didn’t go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn’t”.
- The discoveries of Gertrude Elion became revolutionary in medicine in relation to diseases such as meningitis, malaria, herpes and many others. Medicines developed by Gertrude are still used to avoid rejection of transplanted organs. They were also the first to be used in the fight against AIDS.
DEATH AND LEGACY
- Gertrude Elion died at the age of 81, in 1999. She will always be remembered as an outstanding scientist who did everything in her power to cure humanity.
Gertrude B. Elion Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Gertrude B. Elion across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Gertrude B. Elion worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Gertrude Belle Elion (January 23, 1918, New York, USA – February 21, 1999, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA) who was an American scientist, biochemist, and pharmacologist.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Gertrude B. Elion Facts
- Who was Gertrude Elion?
- A hard way to success
- Working with food
- Gertrude’s enemies
- What about you?
- Draw the monster.
- Hidden words
- It’s for you to decide!
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