Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.
Important Nobel Prize Contributors
Nobel Prize winners aren't often household names, but you shouldn't use that as a measure of their importance. This prestigious award is given to individuals who make significant impacts to society in meaningful ways across many different disciplines. We often take these contributions for granted in our daily lives, but without them our lives would be much different. For example, the discovery of insulin, penicillin, human blood groups, DNA, and radioactivity are just a few Nobel winning contributions that we don't think twice about. One very important Nobel Prize winner who has had a profound impact on medicine is Gertrude Elion.
Gertrude Elion - A Driven Scientist
Born in 1918, Elion was the daughter of Lithuanian and Polish immigrant parents. She grew up in New York, and from a young age she had the desire to learn. Elion was very close with her grandfather, who died from cancer when she was 15 years old. After watching him suffer, she decided to dedicate her life to sparing others from such pain, and at this same young age began studying chemistry at Hunter College in New York. She graduated summa cum laude ('with highest honors') four years later.
Though she was brilliant and enthusiastic, the 1930s were a tough time to be a woman in the work force, especially in the hard sciences. Having trouble getting hired as a female chemist, Elion went back to school to earn a Master's degree at New York University, while also working as a lab assistant and substitute teacher.
When World War II started, men left the work force so they could serve overseas instead. Women took on many of the 'traditional' male jobs to fill the vacancies, but they also had the opportunity to prove that they could do those jobs just as well. In 1944, Elion was hired by Dr. George Hitchings at what is now the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. He was so impressed by her that he kept giving her more responsibilities. Eventually they became colleagues and co-Nobel Prize winners for their work.
Though Elion officially retired in 1983, she didn't slow down much. In 1989, she was awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Polytechnic University of New York and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Harvard in 1998. She was awarded a National Medal of Science and inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1991. After retirement she was a scientist emeritus (someone who is retired but allowed to keep their title) and consultant at GlaxoSmithKline, and an adviser for the World Health Organization and the American Association for Cancer Research. In 1999, Elion died at the age of 81 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Contributions to Medicine
Although the death of her grandfather to cancer was her first major inspiration in chemistry, Elion made many contributions to medicine. One reason she was so successful was because she and Hitchings took a different approach to studying diseases and pathogens. Instead of using trial-and-error, they looked at differences between normal human cells and the cells of disease-causing agents such as viruses and bacteria. They could then create drugs that could target that pathogen and at the same time leave the human host cells unharmed. This was called the rational drug design. This approach made their work of developing new treatment drugs much more efficient and effective.
Together, Elion and Hitchings developed drugs for many different diseases. The list includes leukemia, malaria, herpes, meningitis, gout, urinary tract infections, various auto-immune disorders, and even the development of AZT, the first drug for the HIV virus. Additionally, they discovered treatments that help in kidney transplants. When an organ like a kidney is transplanted into the recipient the recipient's body sees it as a foreign object and attacks it. The treatments Elion and Hutchings discovered reduce this rejection by the recipient's body which helps to make for a more successful transplant.
In addition to her numerous awards and other recognitions, Elion held a total of 45 patents and had 23 honorary degrees. She was not only a female pioneer in the fields of chemistry and medicine, but also an incredible and well-respected scientist
Gertrude Elion may not be a household name, but her contributions to science and medicine have earned her respect, honorary degrees, and awards, including the Nobel Prize in medicine. She was born in 1918 in New York and died in 1999 in North Carolina. When she was 15 years old, her grandfather's death from cancer inspired her to dive head first into the field of chemistry. By the age of 19, she had graduated with her first college degree, summa cum laude. She earned her Master's a few years later, though she was also awarded an astonishing 23 honorary degrees throughout her career. She was also awarded a National Medal of Science and inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. After retirement, Elion served as a scientist emeritus to GlaxoSmithKline and advisor to the World Health Organization and the American Association for Cancer Research.
Elion not only helped develop the rational drug design which made the development of treatments more effective and efficient, but she also developed treatments for things such as leukemia, herpes, meningitis, gout, urinary tract infections, auto-immune diseases, HIV, and the reduction of kidney transplant rejections. Though it was not easy to be a woman scientist during her time, she didn't let that stop her. She worked hard and persevered, becoming one of the most important chemists of our time.
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