Percy Lavon Julian
1899 - 1975
Synthesis of Steroids
Percy Julian was a skilful chemist who first succeeded in synthesizing many complex molecules such as steroids from plants. With the limited tools available in the 1930s Julian was the first to synthesize physostigmine, a very important and complex to produce drug used to treat glaucoma.
Despite his outstanding qualifications, he was rejected from many faculty positions due to racist reasons. Glidden company, however, gave him the chance to work on protein synthesis from soybean. Over the course of 18 years, he succeeded to produce many molecules such as progesterone and testosterone, which led to patents. He also was one of the first to develop a cheap method for cortisone production.
According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), during his lifetime, he was also a big advocate for human rights and equality.
His work also opened the lead for the development of the contraceptive pill.
Written by: Fatma Abdi.