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Inventors’ Stories
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Gertrude Elion, Drug Research Pioneer
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Elion’s high school graduation picture

Elion’s high school graduation picture

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Three-year-old Elion riding a pony on the street
Three-year-old Elion riding a pony on the street

What Inspired Elion to Become a Scientist?

Elion was inspired to become a scientist after her grandfather died of stomach cancer when she was 15.

“I knew I wanted to find a cure for cancer, and from then on, I never looked back.”

After earning a master’s degree in chemistry, she had a difficult time finding a job in a laboratory. But World War II opened up doors for women in science, and pharmaceutical company Burroughs-Wellcome hired her.

Elion’s discoveries include a treatment for childhood leukemia, drugs that help make organ transplants possible, and a medicine that fights malaria.

Next: Sally Fox, Innovator of Naturally Colored Cotton ›

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