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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index E > Gertrude B. Elion Quotes

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Gertrude B. Elion
(23 Jan 1918 - 21 Feb 1999)

American pharmacologist who shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1988 for the development of drugs (with George H. Hitchings) used to treat several major diseases.

Science Quotes by Gertrude B. Elion (11 quotes)

Don’t be afraid of hard work. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Don’t let others discourage you or tell you that you can’t do it. In my day I was told women didn’t go into chemistry. I saw no reason why we couldn’t.
— Gertrude B. Elion
from her lecture notes
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Chemistry (252)  |  Women Scientists (13)  |  Work (635)

I had fallen in love with a young man..., and we were planning to get married. And then he died of subacute bacterial endocarditis... Two years later with the advent of penicillin, he would have been saved. It reinforced in my mind the importance of scientific discovery...
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in Susan Ambrose et al., Journeys of Women in Science and Engineering: No Universal Constants (1997)
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Discovery (680)

I had no specific bent toward science until my grandfather died of stomach cancer. I decided that nobody should suffer that much.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in Azhar Saleem Virk, Inspiration from Lives of Famous People (2003).
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Cancer (49)

I hadn’t been aware that there were doors closed to me until I started knocking on them. I went to an all-girls school. There were 75 chemistry majors in that class, but most were going to teach it … When I got out and they didn't want women in the laboratory, it was a shock … It was the Depression and nobody was getting jobs. But I had taken that to mean nobody was getting jobs … [when I heard] “You're qualified. But we’ve never had a woman in the laboratory before, and we think you’d be a distracting influence.”
— Gertrude B. Elion
As quoted in Sharon Bertsch McGrayne, Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles and Momentous Discoveries (1993).
Science quotes on:  |  Women Scientists (13)

I think it’s a very valuable thing for a doctor to learn how to do research, to learn how to approach research, something there isn't time to teach them in medical school. They don't really learn how to approach a problem, and yet diagnosis is a problem; and I think that year spent in research is extremely valuable to them.
On mentoring a medical student.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in interview by Mary Ellen Avery (1997)
Science quotes on:  |  Diagnosis (62)  |  Doctor (102)  |  Research (590)

It is important to go into work you would like to do. Then it doesn't seem like work. You sometimes feel it's almost too good to be true that someone will pay you for enjoying yourself. I've been very fortunate that my work led to useful drugs for a variety of serious illnesses. The thrill of seeing people get well who might otherwise have died of diseases like leukemia, kidney failure, and herpes virus encephalitis cannot be described in words.
— Gertrude B. Elion
From her lecture notes.
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Disease (275)  |  Work (635)

Maybe I was young and 'cute' (after all, I was only twenty then), but I've learned over the years that when you put white lab coats on chemists, they all look alike!
— Gertrude B. Elion
(6 Jul 1989) recalling being denied a laboratory job in her youth, since - allegedly - her physical attractiveness would be distracting to male coworkers. quoted in Feminine Ingenuity by Anne L. MacDonald (1992)
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)

Nobody … took me seriously. They wondered why in the world I wanted to be a chemist when no women were doing that. The world was not waiting for me.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in interview by Mary Ellen Avery (1997).
Science quotes on:  |  Women Scientists (13)

People ask me often [whether] the Nobel Prize [was] the thing you were aiming for all your life, and I say that would be crazy. Nobody would aim for a Nobel Prize because, if you didn’t get it, your whole life would be wasted. What we were aiming at was getting people well, and the satisfaction of that is much greater than any prize you can get.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in interview by Mary Ellen Avery (1997).
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Disease (275)  |  Nobel Prize (28)

That was the turning point. It was as though the signal was there, 'This is the disease you're going to have to work against.' I never really stopped to think about anything else. It was that sudden.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Autobiography, Nobel Foundation
Science quotes on:  |  Biography (232)  |  Disease (275)

The Nobel Prize is fine, but the drugs I've developed are rewards in themselves.
— Gertrude B. Elion
Quoted in the New York Times (18 Oct 1988).
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (344)  |  Nobel Prize (28)

See also:
  • 23 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Elion's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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