Merck's Medicine Man: Pindaros Roy Vagelos

How Roy Vagelos turned the drugmaker into America's most admired firm

Most boys find their idols at political rallies, baseball stadiums or concert halls. When Pindaros Roy Vagelos was a teenager, he found his heroes at a luncheonette. In the late 1940s he mixed malteds and cleaned counters after school at Estelle's, the diner that his Greek immigrant family owned in Rahway, N.J. The town was, and still is, home to the laboratories of Merck, the giant pharmaceutical firm, and at lunchtime the company's research scientists often wandered into Estelle's, six blocks away. There Vagelos eavesdropped as the men who made Merck's miracle medicines talked about their work in the lab churning...

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