Medal commemorates Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Gertrude Elion

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by Mel Wacks

December 22, 2011 – The Jewish-American Hall of Fame issued its first limited edition medals in 1969, and it is currently the producer of the longest series of art medals produced in America. The latest honoree is Gertrude Elion (1918-1999) who, in 1988, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for discoveries of important principles for drug treatment,” together with Dr. Hitchings, her longtime research partner. Few Nobels have gone to scientists working in the drug industry or those without Ph.D.s, even fewer to women; Elion was only the fifth female Nobel laureate in Medicine, the ninth in science in general. In 1991 she was awarded the National Medal of Science and became the first woman to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The Gertrude Elion medal was sculpted by Daniel Altshuler. The reverse pictures Dr. Elion receiving the Nobel Prize in Medicine from Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden.

Gertrude Elion’s exceptional accomplishments over the course of her long career as a chemist include the development of the first chemotherapy for childhood leukemia, the immunosuppressant that made organ transplantation possible, the first effective anti-viral medication, and treatments for lupus, hepatitis, arthritis, gout, and other diseases. With her research partner, George Hitchings, she revolutionized the way drugs were developed, and her efforts have saved or improved the lives of countless individuals.

Gertrude Belle Elion was born in New York City on January 23, 1918. Soon after graduating from high school, young Gertrude watched her beloved grandfather die painfully of stomach cancer, and deciding “nobody should suffer that much,” she dedicated herself to finding a cure for cancer. In 1937, at the age of 19, Elion graduated from Hunter College summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and four years later received her Master’s Degree. Many years later, she created a scholarship at Hunter College for female graduate students in chemistry.

In June 1944, Elion was hired by Dr. George Hitching of Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), the pharmaceutical company. Elion was intrigued by Hitchings’ research project; and he was impressed by the young woman’s intelligence and energy. Over the next decades, the Hitchings-Elion partnership proved immensely fruitful.

In 1964, Gertrude Elion received a call from George Mandell of George Washington University, who said, “The kind of work you’re doing, you’ve long since passed what a doctorate would have meant. But we’ve got to make an honest woman of you. We’ll give you a doctorate, so we can call you ‘doctor’ legitimately.” This was the first of 25 honorary doctorates Elion received.

Gertrude Elion once stated: “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.”

The over 2-inch high relief Gertrude Elion medals are available in bronze (limited to 250) for a $35 contribution, silver-plated bronze (limited to 150) for $85, and gold-plated bronze (limited to 35) for $125. Each medal is individually serial numbered on the edge, and comes in a gift pouch with a Certificate of Authenticity.
Mention that you are CoinsWeekly reader and take a 15% discount and get free shipping within USA (add $5 for overseas shipment). To order, send your check to the non-profit Jewish-American Hall of Fame, 5189 Jeffdale Ave., Woodland Hills, CA 91364 or call 818-225-1348 for credit card orders.

Other medals and the whole virtual Jewish-American Hall of Fame you will find here.