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Gladys Dick

DICK, Gladys Rowena, née Henry, American physician and life-scientist, 1881-1963. With her husband, Gladys spent many years researching scarlet fever, they developed the Dick Test for susceptibility to this infection. Their research on this deadly disease started at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, when Gladys was Director of Laboratories. From 1914 they were both at the Institute for Infectious Diseases, in Chicago. Their animal experiments were not productive, so they had to use human volunteers (adults immune to the disease, or from families which had suffered a fatality from it). But WW1 and a flu epidemic delayed their research. However they made a breakthrough in 1923, when a nurse they knew caught the disease. They isolated the haemolytic streptococcus responsible and used it to produce the disease in volunteers. They also discovered an exotoxin from the streptococcus, which proved suitable to work with when testing children for susceptibility. In summary, they had identified the cause, found the toxin and then designed a diagnostic test reagent. They were nominated for the 1925 Nobel Prize in Medicine, but in that year NO prize was awarded in that category. An unusual and painful distinction for this dedicated pair of scientists. Controversially, they patented their production processes for creating the toxin and antisera needed for the Dick Test. There was much opposition, they got their patent but by the time the legal arguments were over antibiotics were becoming available and their patents were therefore of little value from then onwards. Probably they would have received the Nobel Prize had it not been for their commercial intentions.

Physician - Inventor

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