Gertrude Belle Elion

Gertrude Belle Elion


Working in the lab

My scientist Gertrude Belle Elion (1918-1999) – Biochemist.

Gertrude Elion was a diligent working student. She loved all of her classes in school and graduated at the age of 15. At this time Gertrude’s grandfather passed away from stomach cancer, helping her to start to pursue science. Elion is the winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine and the recipient of three honorary doctoral degrees. While life may not have always been easy Elion pushed through it and was successful in many areas. She helped create a cure for childhood leukemia, made organ transplantation a possibility, and discovered treatments for many diseases such as gout.

Elion was inspired by her grandfather and by Marie Curie. Elion had looked for many jobs and never found anything stable until she met George Hitchings who had an interest in people who had a passion for science, love for knowledge, and set apart from the crowd. He gave her a chance to be a scientist and succeed in her occupation. Gertrude Elion’s chance to be a scientist has given many others a chance at life.

I believe that Gertrude Elion would be a good role model because she was a woman who thought more of others than she did of herself. She enjoyed teaching young scientist and watching them grow. Her compassion towards her students and desire for them to succeed shows that she didn’t mind setting a good example.  Her discoveries were always benefitting others and while she may have had a personal connection from her grandfathers death, Elion always expressed that the overall achievements of the company came before her own goals.


National Association of Professional Women

National Association of Professional Women

The NAPW is an organization whose mission “is to provide the most advanced forum for members to connect with like-minded professional women to develop innovative business and social relationships. We continuously offer our members the resources and benefits necessary to foster professional and personal success.” The NAPW has 155 chapter in 44 states and the district of columbia. This organization is represent by one 300,000 women.

The NAPW is a good organization for many professional women to give and receive guidance along with making lifetime friends and partners. However, I don’t think Gertrude Belle Elion would belong to this group. While NAPW seems to be a great organization I believe that Elion would join a group more specialized in what she is doing. 

George Herbert Hitchings VS. Gertrude Belle Elion

George Herbert Hitchings VS. Gertrude Belle Elion

George Hitchings working along side with Gertrude Elion

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.






Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography

Kelsea Filter

Professor Zaidman

Beauty and Brains

14 September 2011


Primary Works Cited

“Gertrude B. Elion – Autobiography.” Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.

In Gertrude Elion’s autobiography she tells her life story. Elion was born in New York City and later moved to the Bronx. She believes that she would not have ever had a higher education if she had not made good enough grades to be accepted into Hunter College for free.  Elion talks of her late grandfather dying from cancer and how that event inspired her to pursue a career in science. The reader will sense Elion’s love for teaching science to secondary students. She talks of the struggles World War II put on scientist, chemist in particular.  Elion strived to get her doctorates but choose her job and in the end received honorary doctorate degrees.  This Primary source gives insight of Gertrude Elion’s life and all of her accomplishments, struggles, and values.

Secondary Works Cited

Avery, Mary E. “All Available Biographical Memoirs.” The National Academies Press. National Academy of Sciences. Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.

This resource is useful in order to analyze Elion’s life. It goes from the time she graduated high school to her adult life as a biochemist. This is a National Academic Press memoir of Elion’s career in science.  This website contains notes, that were hand-written by Gertrude Elion, for one of her lectures. Elion’s partners and coworkers contributions are mentioned.  Background knowledge of the diseases, she discovered cures for, produces a better understanding of the achievements Elion made in childhood leukemia treatments and other diseases such as gout. Later in life she became an advisor and watched over students as they took off in her path.



“Gertrude Elion Biography — Academy of Achievement.” Academy of Achievement Main Menu. American Academy of Achievement, 1 Feb. 2005. Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.

This website contains a profile of Gertrude Belle Elion giving a brief overview of her many accomplishments. On this site there is a full biography of Gertrude Elion’s life going into further detail of her accomplishments and her lifestyle while becoming a scientist. A useful tool is an interview held with Gertrude Elion about her life and how she decided to take a career in science. The photo gallery displays an array of pictures from when Elion was a young woman until more recent years. There are video links making Elion’s life more vivid by hearing her and seeing her talk about who inspired her and the obstacles she went through being a woman scientist.


“Gertrude Elion.” Jewish Women’s Archive. Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.


An article on Gertrude Elion and her achievements from graduating high school at the age of fifteen to winning the Nobel Prize. Elion started out as a diligent student who loved all subjects in school. When she was fifteen she graduated high school then attended Hunter College.  In Elion’s early years her grandfather passed away from cancer after this tragic incident in Gertrude’s life she knew she wanted to have a career path in science. She researched many diseases and viruses deriving from rapidly dividing cells. Elion was forced to pick between her job and her education and choose her career. While sustaining multiple jobs over the years Elion worked hard and was the recipient of twenty honorary doctoral degrees and was awarded by the American Chemical Society with the Garvan Medal.  This encyclopedia article points out major events in Gertrude Elion’s life in an easy to read manner.


Hall, Lisa C. “A Life-saving Team: Gertrude Elion and Dr. George Hitchings.” North Carolina Museum of History, 2007. Web. 12 Sept.2011.<>.

This document shares a lot of information about Dr. George Hitchings, the main person Gertrude Elion worked under and then as a coworker.  This article goes through how these lab partners got connected. Elion was often told that in a work place full of men she would be a distraction. Hitchings was open to different people and people who had a thirst for knowledge. Hitchings and Elion created many injections to try to confuse diseased cells to help fight off diseases by making the cell think it has all of it’s DNA. Elion was always eager to share her love of science with students and young scientists.  In this article the reader will see how a chance to be a scientist for one woman gives a chance at life to many others.


“History Makers – Gertrude Elion – Overview.” Jewish Women’s Archive. Web. 12 Sept. 2011. <>.


This link is great for a first look at Gertrude Elion.  This website is ideal for someone who knows nothing about Elion and wants to gain general knowledge. The reader will learn about drugs made to cure childhood leukemia and how organ transplantation is possible. This article recognizes Elion as a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine -an amazing achievement for someone without a Ph.D. The reader will learn that Elion was a selfless person and cared about her company’s achievements before her own. This article displays Elion’s personality traits allowing the reader to become familiar with her.  The reader’s comprehension level does not need to be superior in order to understand the reading. It is a light reading with good content.