George H. Hitchings

George Hitchings

George H. Hitchings in 1988
Born George Herbert Hitchings
April 18, 1905
Hoquiam, Washington
Died February 27, 1998 (1998-02-28) (aged 92)
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Washington
Harvard University
Known for chemotherapy
Notable awards

George Herbert Hitchings (April 18, 1905 – February 27, 1998) was an American doctor who shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Sir James Black and Gertrude Elion "for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment," Hitchings specifically for his work on chemotherapy.[2][3][4][5][6]

Education and early life

Hitchings was born in Hoquiam, Washington, in 1905, and grew up there, in Berkeley, California, San Diego, Bellingham, Washington, and Seattle. He graduated from Seattle's Franklin High School, where he was salutatorian, in 1923, and from there went to the University of Washington, from which he graduated with a degree in chemistry cum laude in 1927, after having been elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior the year before. That summer, he worked at the university's Puget Sound Biological Station at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island , and received a master's degree the next year for his thesis based on that work.

From the University of Washington, Hitchings went to Harvard University as a teaching fellow, ending up at Harvard Medical School. Before getting his Ph.D. in 1933, he joined Alpha Chi Sigma in 1929.[7][8][9]

Career and research

Following his PhD, he worked at Harvard and Case Western Reserve University. In 1942, he went to work for Wellcome Research Laboratories, where he began working with Gertrude Elion in 1944. Drugs Hitchings' team worked on included 2,6-diaminopurine (a compound to treat leukemia) and p-chlorophenoxy-2,4-diaminopyrimidine (a folic acid antagonist). According to his Nobel Prize autobiography,

The line of inquiry we had begun in the 1940s [also] yielded new drug therapies for malaria (pyrimethamine), leukemia (6-mercaptopurine and thioguanine), gout (allopurinol), organ transplantation (azathioprine) and bacterial infections (co-trimoxazole (trimethoprimA)). The new knowledge contributed by our studies pointed the way for investigations that led to major antiviral drugs for herpes infections (acyclovir) and AIDS (zidovudine).

In 1967 Hitchings became Vice President in Charge of Research of Burroughs-Wellcome. He became Scientist Emeritus in 1976. He also served as Adjunct Professor of Pharmacology and of Experimental Medicine from 1970 to 1985 at Duke University.[10] Hitchings died in 1998 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Hitchings founded the Triangle Community Foundation in 1983. Hitchings is a member of the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame. His wife died in 1985.

Awards and honors

Hitchings was awarded the Passano award by the Passano Foundation in 1969,[11] and the de Villiers award in 1970.[12] He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1974.[1]


  1. 1 2 "Fellowship of the Royal Society 1660-2015". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15.
  2. Raju, T N (2000), "The Nobel chronicles. 1988: James Whyte Black, (b 1924), Gertrude Elion (1918–99), and George H Hitchings (1905–98).", Lancet (published Mar 18, 2000), 355 (9208), p. 1022, doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(05)74775-9, PMID 10768469
  3. van Zwieten, P A (1988), "[Nobel prize for Medicine 1988]", Nederlands tijdschrift voor geneeskunde (published Dec 31, 1988), 132 (53), pp. 2401–2, PMID 3063980
  4. Horgan, J (1988), "Physiology or medicine.", Scientific American (published Dec 1988), 259 (6), p. 33, doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1288-33b, PMID 3060998
  5. Sjöqvist, F (1988), "[Nobel Prize in medicine: three share this year's Nobel Prize in medicine. Important principles in drug therapy]", Lakartidningen (published Oct 26, 1988), 85 (43), pp. 3542–7, PMID 2462143
  6. Goodwin, Len (1989). "George Hitchings and Gertrude Elion-Nobel Prizewinners". Parasitology Today. 5 (2): 33. doi:10.1016/0169-4758(89)90184-1. ISSN 0169-4758.
  7. Then, R L (1993), "History and future of antimicrobial diaminopyrimidines.", Journal of chemotherapy (Florence, Italy) (published Dec 1993), 5 (6), pp. 361–8, PMID 8195827
  8. Giner-Sorolla, A (1988), "The excitement of a suspense story, the beauty of a poem: the work of Hitchings and Elion", Trends Pharmacol. Sci. (published Dec 1988), 9 (12), pp. 437–8, doi:10.1016/0165-6147(88)90133-2, PMID 3078084
  9. Medicinal Chemistry Division, American Chemical Society, Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame, retrieved 30 August 2012
  10. Weatherall, Miles (20 March 1998). "Obituary: George Hitchings". The Independent. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. Talalay, P (1969), "Presentation of Dr. George Herbert Hitchings for the Passano Award.", JAMA (published Sep 1, 1969), 209 (9), pp. 1337–8, doi:10.1001/jama.209.9.1337, PMID 4895870
  12. Dameshek, W (1970), "The deVilliers award of the Leukemia Society of America Inc. to George H. Hitchings, Ph.D.", Bibliotheca haematologica (36), pp. XXI–XXII, PMID 4950964
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