African-American chemist Percy Julian has been a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of drugs such as cortisone, steroids, and pills for birth control

Percy Julian

Who was Percy Julian

Pioneering chemist Percy Julian, who was born in Alabama in 1899, was not permitted to attend high school but went on to receive his Ph.D. His study at academic and corporate organisations resulted to drug chemistry synthesis for the treatment of glaucoma and arthritis, and although his race was challenging at every turn, he is considered one of the most important chemists in American history.

Percy Julian Early Life

Percy Lavon Julian, the grandson of former slaves, was born on April 11, 1899 in Montgomery, Alabama. Through the eighth grade he attended college but there were no high schools accessible to black learners. He applied to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he had to take the evening high school courses to get him to his peers ‘ academic stage. Despite this difficult beginning.

Percy Julian Life in Academia

Julian accepted a position at Fisk University after college as a chemistry teacher. When he obtained a scholarship to attend Harvard University in 1923, he left to complete his master’s degree, although the university would not allow him to pursue his doctorate. He traveled for several years, teaching at black universities, before earning his Ph.D. in 1931 at Vienna University in Austria.

After college, Julian accepted a position as a professor of chemistry at Fisk University. He left to finish his master’s degree when he received a scholarship to attend Harvard University in 1923, although the college would not enable him to pursue his phd. He traveled several years, teaching at black universities, before earning his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in Austria in 1931.

Percy Julian Later Career

Julian accepted a position at Fisk University after college as a professor of chemistry. When he received a scholarship to attend Harvard University in 1923, he left to finish his master’s degree, although the college would not allow him to pursue his phd. He traveled for several years, teaching at black universities, before earning his Ph.D. in 1931 at Austria’s University of Vienna.

Julian continued his biomedical work as well, and discovered how to extract sterols from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone. He was also lauded for his synthesis of cortisone, which became used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

In 1953, Julian left Glidden and set up his own laboratory in 1954, Julian Laboratories. Before founding Julian Research Institute, a non-profit organization he ran for the rest of his life, he sold the company in 1961, becoming one of the first black millionaires.

He died of liver cancer on April 19, 1975.

Percy Julian Recognition

Julian was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973 as the first black chemist. He was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1999 the American Chemical Society recognized his synthesis of physostigmine as “one of the top 25 accomplishments in American chemistry history.”

Percy Julian Personal Life

While working at Howard University, Julian encountered his spouse, Anna Roselle, and the two were charged with having an affair while she was married to one of his peers. A scandal followed and Julian was shot, but in 1935 he and Anna were married with two kids.

In 1950, Julian moved to Oak Park, Illinois, with his family. After buying their home, but before moving in, on Thanksgiving Day, the house was firebombed. In June, 1951, it was assaulted again.

Read More

Julian’s life was the topic of a documentary film, entitled Forgotten Genius, produced for PBS ‘ Nova series.

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Citation Information

Article Title

Percy Julian Biography

Author

Adebayo M. Tayo

Website Name

 

The Africhroyale.com website

URL

https://www.africhriyale.com/scientist/percy-julian

Access Date

August 16, 2019

Publisher

A&E Television Networks

Last Updated

June 30, 2019

Original Published Date

April 11, 2014