Gertrude B. Elion


“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.” – Gertrude B. Elion

I’m going to start off by stating that Gertrude was the daughter of immigrants (her father from Lithuania and her mother from Poland), and wait while that sinks in because of current event context…..maybe just while longer………we good? Good.

Gertrude B. Elion is a Nobel prize winning Chemist and Pharmacologist. She graduated with honors from Hunter College in New York when she was 19, but was rejected from multiple graduate programs because she was a woman. Undeterred, she decided to get her foot into the door via accepting an unpaid lab assistant position. A couple of years later (1944), she was hired by Burroughs Wellcome pharmaceuticals and remained there for 39 years. During her time, she worked to develop a drug used in chemotherapy treatment for children with leukemia, drugs that aids anti-rejection of organs for transplant patients, and many others that helped combat malaria, AIDs, gout, bacterial infections, and viral infections. She received a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988, despite never receiving her PhD.

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