One-of-a-kind Hilde Pfaltz worked as a nurse during World War I before receiving her doctorate in medicine from the University of Vienna.

True to form, Roche CEO Emil Barell wasn’t deterred by the small but scandalous detail of her being a woman and hired her in 1929 for the pharmacological institute of Roche. It was here that she introduced a number of innovations, most remarkably the standardised testing of new drugs for teratogenicity.

Besides leading the pharmacological research department, she also became the first official company doctor in 1940.

When the vitamin C factory exploded in Basel in 1954, she immediately tended to the wounded, dragging colleagues out of the burning building. It is due in great part to her first-response efforts that the number of casualties did not surpass the five workers who were killed instantly in the blast.

A hero of Roche's early days, she retired in 1956 but retained her very active lifestyle. At 90 years old, she bought an old farm in the Swiss Alps that she renovated herself. Hilde Pfaltz died in 1989, still as bright and active as ever.

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