- His invention of AZT, a drug so synonymous with AIDS treatment that it's been mentioned in raps, novels, and Broadway shows.
- His perceived failure to patent his antiviral molecules, thus "costing" him and Wayne State University millions in revenue realized instead by Burroughs Wellcome (later GSK).
|First report of AZT, J. Org. Chem. 1964, p. 2076*|
He even has a statue installed at Detroit Medical Center.
Even more interesting, he accomplished nearly everything in his career while staying in one place: Michigan. He jumped outside (briefly) to Illinois for a postdoc at Northwestern, but all other schooling and professional work came from in and around Detroit. It's amazing to me, given how much I and others have moved around for a career in science, that his tenure in one metro area lasted for a lifetime.
*Side note: When I look up old papers, I enjoy seeing who else I recognize among the authors in the same issue. 1964 must have been quite heady - in the same issue with AZT, we have papers by Nakanishi, H.C. Brown, Bill Dauben, Alfred Blomquist, and John Baldwin.