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Spotlight on: 'Dr. Percy L. Julian'

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  • multiracialbookclub
    Dr. Percy Julian, 1899 – 1975 Just before the turn of the century, Percy L. Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a bright student, but at that time
    Message 1 of 6 , Aug 4, 2008

      Dr. Percy Julian, 1899 – 1975

      Just before the turn of the century, Percy L.  
      Julian was born in Montgomery , Alabama .

      He was a bright student, but at that time
      the city provided no public education for
      Colored students after eighth grade.

      He persisted, however, and entered DePauw
      University in Indiana as a "sub-freshman".

      He had to take several classes to get caught up
      on what his public education had not provided.

      Yet in 1920, he graduated first in his
      class with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

      He became a chemistry instructor at
      University (
      an HBIMU), but in 1923, received
      an Austin Fellowship in Chemistry and went
      to Harvard to complete his Masters degree.

      Again he took university teaching positions for a few
      years before traveling to Austria to obtain his PhD in
      chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1931.

      He returned to DePauw to continue his research.

      His original interest was investigating plant
      products, especially traditional medicinal
      plants such as the African Calabar Bean.

      In 1935 he first help to synthesize from
      this plant a chemical called Physostigmine,
      or Esserine, which could treat the
      sometimes blinding disease of
      by reducing pressure inside the eyeball

      This brought him international scientific
      acclaim, but still no professorship.

      He left academia to became lab
      director at Glidden Company.

      One day in 1939, a water leak in a tank
      of purified soybean oil created a strange
      byproduct and gave Julian a surprise insight:
      the soy sterol that had been created could
      be used to manufacture male and female
      hormones, progesterone and testosterone.

      Progesterone would prove useful in treating
      certain cancers and problem pregnancies.

      During World War II, Julian developed a foam
      from soy protein that could put out oil and gas
      fires; it was quickly adopted by the military.

      In 1948, the Mayo Clinic announced the discovery
      of a compound that relieved rheumatoid arthritis.

      It was natural cortisone, however, had to be
      extracted from the adrenal glands of oxen
      and it cost hundreds of dollars per drop.

      As a result of natural cortisone being very difficult
      to come by it was also extremely expensive
      -- such that only rich people could afford it.

      In effort to help relieve the suffering of
      those individuals who were not rich,
      --- Dr. Percy got right to work.

      He next set out to provide a synthetic
      version of cortisone, a product which
      greatly relieved the pain of suffered
      by sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis.

      By October 1949, his team had created
      a synthetic cortisone substitute, radically
      less expensive but just as effective.

      Julian's synthetic cortisone was
      only pennies per ounce.

      With Julian's discovery of the soy-based
      substitute, millions of sufferers around the
      world found relief at a reasonable price.

      Juliam continued his success as he next
      developed a way to inexpensively develop
      male and female hormones from soy beans.

      These hormones would help to prevent
      miscarriages in pregnant women and would
      be used to fight cancer and other ailments

      By making important medical products plentiful
      and less expensive, Julian accelerated the
      research and growth of knowledge about them.

      His techniques and products led directly to
      the development of chemical birth control
      and medicines to suppress the immune system,
      crucial in performing
      organ transplants.

      Julian held more than 100 chemical patents,
      wrote scores of papers on his work, and received
      dozens of awards and honorary degrees.

      He founded The Julian Laboratories, Inc., with labs in
      the U.S. and Mexico (both purchased by Smith Kline
      French in 1961) and another chemical plant in
      Guatemala (owned by Upjohn Company since 1961).

      So significant was his work that in 1950 the City
      of Chicago named him 'Chicagoan of the Year'.

      In 1951, Julian and his family moved to
      Oak Park ,
      Illinois , becoming the first
      Colored family to live there.

      Soon after purchased a home for his family
      in nearby Oak Park , the home was set afire
      by an arsonist on Thanksgiving day 1950.

      A year later, dynamite was thrown from a
      passing car and exploded outside the
      bedroom window of Julain's children.

      The community, however, largely backed him
      and today celebrates his birthday as a holiday.



      Percy L. Julian holding glasses, n.d.

      Percy L. Julian in laboratory 

      Percy L. Julian talking,
      photo of East College
      in background

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