The biochemist who would never quit, Gertrude "Trudy" Belle Elion (1918-1999) was born in New York City and dedicated her life to invention and finding cures. Her name appears on 45 patents.
Always, she sought knowledge. "It didn't matter if it was history, languages or science," she said. "I was just like a sponge."
Her childhood idols were Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur. At 15, Elion lost her beloved grandfather to cancer. "This is the disease you're going to have to work against," she told herself. "I never really stopped to think about anything else."
She graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College in 1937 and became a pioneer in drug research, relentlessly looking for the cure for the world's most deadly diseases including cancer, malaria, AIDS, and leukemia.
"In my day, I was told women didn't go into chemistry," she said. "I saw no reason why we couldn't."
With relentless determination, she developed the first successful drugs to stop the progress of leukemia. Through her work and the development of the drug 6-MP, cures were found for 80% of those with childhood leukemia.
Elion shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in medicine with her mentor Dr. George Hitchings and researcher Sir James Black. In 1991, President George Bush awarded her the National Medal of Science and said her work had "transformed the world." That same year, she became the first woman inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
"It's important to go into work that you would like to do," she once advised. "And it doesn't feel like work. You sometimes feel it's almost too good to be true, that someone will pay you for enjoying yourself."
Failure is a step away from success.