A Much-loved Nobel Laureate, Known Simply As Aunt Trudy Mark

Mark Nicholls


Eur Heart J. 2021;42(39):4005-4007. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Gertrude B. 'Trudy' Elion won the Nobel Prize in 1988. But what was she really like? Her nephew, cardiologist Dr Jon Elion, reveals what an inspirational figure she was to him and numerous others

The headline in the Kentucky newspaper proclaimed: 'Nobel Laureate is Just "Aunt Trudy" to Local Cardiologist'. The story was celebrating the award of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to Gertrude B. Elion, which she received jointly with George H. Hitchings and Sir James W. Black 'for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment'.

While she may have been just 'Aunt Trudy' for headline purposes, she was so much more: an inspirational figure who loved family life, fostered a joyous pursuit of science, and had a common touch with students, colleagues, and even Royalty.

The 'local cardiologist' was Dr Jon Elion, her nephew, who recalls her as 'unassuming, pleasant, outgoing, and with an easy laugh'.

'She was very egalitarian in her views of gender, race, or lifestyle preferences. She treated everybody equally, whether it was the King of Sweden or the security guard at the research lab', he added.

But above all, she was an important inspiration to him.

Born in New York City on 23 January 1918, the daughter of a dentist, Trudy Elion enjoyed time with the wider family, often visiting her brother (Jon's father), always bringing gifts and spending Christmases with them.

'Aunt Trudy was a big part of our extended family and someone with whom I was very close from my early childhood', said Jon.