George W. Merck
Heir to three centuries of chemists and pharmacists, George Wilhelm Merck blended business sense and compassion with ingenuity, integrity, and enthusiasm, a fusion which produced a business leader who honored public service, a scientist who put people before profits, and a conservationist who bought land for common enjoyment.
He began at Merck & Co. in 1914 and worked in practically every department and operation, ascending to the presidency in 1925. In 1929, he distinguished the company by creating an in-house laboratory in which scientists could conduct pure and applied research equal to that of any university. By 1940, Merck scientists had synthesized vitamins B1, B6, and pantothenic acid. The company was further credited for developing streptomycin, synthesizing cortisone, and isolating the anti-anemia vitamin B12.
He opened his home to those whose lives had been torn apart by WW II and enjoyed diverse political and charitable interests. At various times he was director of the American Cancer Society, American Forestry Association, American Foundation for Tropical Medicine, National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Save-the-Redwood League.