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Edward and Virginia Taylor Science Center

Edward C. Taylor arrived at Hamilton in 1942 intending to become a writer. To fulfill a science requirement, he flipped a coin and opted for chemistry over biology. That serendipitous decision led to a lifelong passion and a life-saving discovery.

As a doctoral student in chemistry, Taylor became fascinated by reports of a compound obtained from human liver that possessed a nuclear structure previously observed only as a pigment in butterfly wings. Further research revealed that this liver compound, later named folic acid, was essential for all forms of life.

Dr. Taylor joined Princeton University’s faculty in 1954, but did not return to his earlier studies in folic acid for two decades, when an idea emerged for a new approach to fighting cancer. In 1985, he established a collaboration with Eli Lilly and Company that focused on creating drugs that use folate-dependent enzymes in the cellular biosynthesis of DNA. This led to Professor Taylor’s discovery in 1987 of a compound that he and Lilly developed into Alimta, the first effective treatment for malignant pleural mesothelioma and later approved to combat non-small-cell lung cancer. After five years on the market, Alimta became the most successful new cancer drug, in terms of sales, in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

Professor Taylor transferred to emeritus status at Princeton in 1997, having written hundreds of articles and numerous books on heterocyclic and organic chemistry, earning 52 U.S. patents, teaching thousands of students and bringing new promise to the lives of cancer patients worldwide.

In grateful appreciation for the Taylors’ generous and discerning support, and with great pride in the lifetime achievements of Dr. Taylor and his dedication to the practice and teaching of chemistry, Hamilton College is pleased to name its science center in honor of Edward C. Taylor and his wife Virginia Crouse Taylor.