November 12, 2010
Helen Murray Free
WOOSTER, Ohio - Helen Murray Free, a 1945 College of Wooster graduate and a pioneering chemist,
recently received two prestigious national awards: the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) 66th National Historic Chemical Landmark designation.
Both awards recognize the development of Clinistix, the first dip-and-read diagnostic test strips for monitoring glucose in urine, which was developed by Free and her late husband, Alfred, in 1956. The thin strips change color based on the concentration of glucose. The intensity of the resulting blue-green color reflects the amount of peroxide, and hence, glucose, in the sample. “Comparison with a standard chart on the Clinistix container lets users determine the approximate level of glucose in the urine,” wrote Linda Raber in Chemical and Engineering News, a publication of the American Chemical Society. “This development was revolutionary because it
enabled people with diabetes to monitor their glucose level at home, saving them a trip to the doctor.”
Researchers later developed a way to combine several tests on one strip, thereby providing
healthcare professionals with invaluable tools to aid in the detection of disease, according to Raber. “These innovations, along with instrument-based measurement of glucose in fingertip blood, provided patients with an inexpensive means to aid in the management of diabetes and kidney disease,
significantly improving their quality of life,” she wrote.
The National Medal of Technology and Innovation honors those who have made lasting contributions to America’s competitiveness and quality of life while helping to strengthen the nation’s technological workforce. The ACS National Historic Chemical Landmark designation recognizes seminal achievements in the history of chemical science and technology.
President Obama praised recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation as well
as those who were selected for the National Medal of Science. “The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers, and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity,” he said. “Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American
prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions.”
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