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About James. R. Gillette

James R. Gillette, Ph.D.

February 9, 1928 to December 26, 2001

Chief, Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

A scholar, and major contributor to the field of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics Philosopher and scientist, supervisor of pharmacologists world wide. A gentle man of keen intellect, great integrity, impeccable character, and modesty  His famous picture was of him playing with his pipe or scratching his head.  


James Robert Gillette was born in Calumet City, Illinois, and was brought up in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.  The family tradition was to attend Cornell College, Iowa, and Jim did just that.  After graduating from Cornell College, Jim started graduate work at the University of Iowa in Biochemistry with Dr. George Kalnitsky, with whom he obtained his M.Sc.  After a short hiatus as a teacher at Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota, Jim returned for his Ph.D. degree at the University of Iowa.  Jim met Joan at the Wesley Foundation in Iowa City where she was a graduate student in Bacteriology.  They were married in September 1953.

After graduation in May 1954, Jim and Joan moved to Bethesda, MD, onto his first position with Bert LaDu at the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology/Heart and Lung Institute at the NIH, where the grandfather of Pharmacology, B.B. Brodie, was chief.  Jim flourished in this great environment among gifted colleagues.  His studies on Cytochrome P450 were seminal and rose to the ranks to succeed Dr. B.B. Brodie as chief of the Laboratory in 1972.  He had a prolific career and published around 300 papers and chapters and coeditied seven books and was a self-taught mathematician, relating biological events with mathematics.  His visions in the fields of drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics had earned him numerous honors and awards: the D.Sc. from Cornell College, the Troy Daniel lectureship at UCSF in 1976, the B.B. Brodie Award in 1978, as well as honorary memberships from the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and ISSX.

Jim Gillette worked most of his career at the National Institutes of Health.  He had trained many postdoctoral fellows and scientists as chief of the Laboratory of Chemical Pharmacology. He was a major, scientific pioneer of high integrity, who had made seminal contributions to the field of drug metabolism on NADPH and oxygen requirement, family of monooxygenases under different regulatory control, reduction of glutathione, toxicity of bromobenzene, and on a more quantitative level, viewing drug metabolism with mathematical treatises - pharmacokinetics.  He was a gentlemen’s gentleman who was modest, kind and showed great warmth and feeling towards young scientists. He had been an inspiration to many as a mentor and colleague, and was a role model for any scientist. He would have been tremendously proud to be named for the North American New Investigator Award of ISSX, knowing that this award is to honor new investigators of great research promise.  

Throughout his career, Jim had always demonstrated excellence in research and held key positions in task forces and committees admonishing drug-mediated toxicity.  For those who knew Jim well, we remember him not only for his striking achievements, but his gentle nature.  He treated students and fellow scientists with the same kind and sincere demeanor that won our gratitude and admiration. He conducted his scientific career with grace, and would be remembered for his science, gentleness, modesty and impeccable integrity.