I will be comparing my female scientist Gertrude Belle Elion with her colleague George H. Hitchings. In my previous post you learned about Gertrude Belle Elion’s career as a biochemist. George Hitchings hired Gertrude and they had a scientific partnership working on many projects. I will be highlighting their family backgrounds, education levels, inspirations, professional positions, awards and accomplishments.
George Hitchings grew up in Seattle. His mother is Lillian Matthews Hitchings who had English and Scottish descents and his father George Herbert Hitchings, Sr. who had Canadian and Irish descents. George had two sisters. He married twice and had a son and a daughter with his first wife Beverly Hitchings. Gertrude Elion’s mother Bertha Elion came to America from Russia when she was 14 years old her father Robert Elion came from Lithuania when he was 12 years old. Elion’s fiancé passed away and she never married. Despite Elion never having children she was able to watch her brothers children grow up. Hitchings and Elion both had good relationships with their family they both experienced deaths within their families, which inspired them to pursue careers in medicine and science.
When George was 12 his father died from a prolonged disease. Gertrude Elion’s grandfather died from stomach cancer when she was 15. Aside from being influenced by family members both Hitchings and Elion had other people they idolized and looked up to. George Hitchings admired Louis Pasteur who studied diseases and worked with the Spontaneous Generation Theory. Hitchings admired every aspect of Pasteur’s life so much that his high school Salutatorian speech’s main focus was on Louis Pasteur’s life and career pertaining to science. Hitchings idolized Louis Pasteur while Gertrude Elion found admiration for Hitchings. If you recall Hitchings gave Elion the opportunity to pursue science. George Hitchings had an interest in people who had a passion for science, love for knowledge, and set apart from the crowd. He was a mentor for Elion throughout their partnership at Burroughs Wellcome she highly respected Hitchings while he had the same respect for her. They were both highly educated people who came together to do great things in the medical field.
George Hitchings graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle Washington and continued his education at the University of Washington where he obtained his Bachelors of Science as well as his Masters of Science in Chemistry. Hitchings was a teaching fellow at Harvard University while he was working on his Masters and Doctorate Degrees. He later became a scholar in public health at Harvard University and in electrolyte research at Case Western Reserve University.
Gertrude Elion graduated high school at fifteen and continued her schooling at Hunters College where she graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. She received her Masters of Science degree in chemistry in from New York University. Elion did not have the opportunity to continue on to her Doctorates Degree while working. Later in life Elion received 3 honorary doctoral degrees from George Washington University, Brown University and the University of Michigan. Elion’s education and determination allowed her to succeed in her professional endeavors.
Hitchings and Elion both had careers in education Hitchings was a teaching fellow at Harvard University and Western Reserve University now Case Western Reserve University. Elion taught at the Secondary level in multiple schools. Hitchings was hired at Burroughs Wellcome in 1942. Hitchings hired Elion into the partnership in 1944. Elion said that she was promoted frequently during her career. She became the Head of the Department of Experimental Therapy in 1967. In the same year Hitchings was promoted vice president of research. In 1975 Hitchings became a Scientist Emeritus. Hitchings served as the President of the Burroughs Wellcome fund from 1971-1990. Elion retired and became a Professor at Duke University working with Medical students. During Hitchings and Elion’s careers they made many accomplishments and received many awards both together and separately.
George Hitchings was awarded with 11 Honorary degrees, Worked on nucleic acids before Watson and Crick had discovered the structure of DNA, received the Gregor Mendel Medal from the Czechoslovakian Academy of Science, the Albert Schweitzer International Prize for Medicine and was a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. Hitchings had so many accomplishments as well as his scientific partner Gertrude Elion. She was awarded with 3 honorary doctoral degrees, recipient of the Gavin-Olin Medal, awarded with the National Medal of Science, received the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In comparison Hitchings and Elion’s mile markers as a team, made their individual achievements become miniscule accomplishments.
During their partnership together they researched rapidly dividing cells and were able to find cures for Gout and Herpes. Also while studying rapidly dividing cells they were able to ease the side effects of chemotherapy. They made kidney and other organ transplants a possibility for patients whose bodies rejected transplants. They found a way to help cure childhood leukemia and in 1988 Hitchings and Elion were awarded with the Nobel Prize in medicine for their discoveries in drug treatments.
I have compared and contrasted Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings family backgrounds, people they have found inspirational, their educational level, as well as their individual and combined achievements.