Today we celebrate the legacy of Percy Lavon Julian, an accomplished African-American chemist. Julian specialized in synthesizing drugs from natural plants (like soybean or yams), whose research eventually lead to the creation of two big-market drug sectors: cortisone (steroid) and birth-control pills.
He lived roller-coaster life filled with accomplishments and setbacks, some self-inflicted, while others were imposed on him by institutions or even by assailants within his residential community (such as the firebombing of his Oak Park (Chicago) home before he even moved in – he and his family were about to become the first African-American family in an otherwise all-white neighborhood).
If you have a PBS THIRTEEN passport you can watch several videos on his story here. You can also read more about him here at biography.com, and of course here at Wikipedia. The videos below succinctly detail his life’s work. Percy Julian also has a 29¢ stamp in his honor.
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