Inventors are inspirational. Helen Murray Free is an inventor, chemist, and educator. She is known for her work in the creation of many self-testing systems for diabetes. She has earned seven patents and co-authored books on urinalysis testing.
Helen Murray was born on February 20, 1923 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her family moved to Youngstown, Ohio when she was young and her mother died when she was six during an influenza epidemic. She went to public schools in Youngstown and graduated valedictorian from Poland Seminary High School in 1941. A summer camp at the College of Wooster led to her attending there. The Pearl Harbor bombing led to her majoring in chemistry. She received her B.S. in 1944.
Helen was employed at Miles Laboratories as a quality control chemist. She next applied for and then filled a position in Alfred Free’s biochemistry research group. In 1947, Helen married Alfred Free and they later had six children. Both Free chemists worked to move urine testing tablets to strips. Clinistix, a dip-and-read diagnostic test strip for monitoring glucose in urine, was introduced in 1956. Other testing strips were then developed. In 1969, Helen moved into the Growth and Development Department. In 1976, she became the director of Specialty Test Systems. Miles Laboratories was acquired by Bayer Diagnostics in 1978 and she was Director of Marketing Services. In 1978, she earned her MA in Management (Health Care Administration) from Central Michigan University.
She retired in 1982, but works as a consultant for Bayer Diagnostics. She is, also, an Adjunct Professor Of Management at Indiana University South Bend. Urinalysis in Laboratory Practice, co-authored with her husband, is a standard work in the field still. She is, also, an active promoter of science education. Two of her programs pay special attention to the science education of female and underprivileged students.
Helen has received multiple awards and honors throughout her career and life. In 1980, she received the Garvan-Olin Medal. In 1996, she received the Kilby Award. In 2000, she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 2010, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Her and her husband’s work in developing diagnostic test strips was made a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in 2010.
Be inspired! Have a bright day!