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How Percy Lavon Julian Became the First Black Chemist Inducted Into the National Academy of Sciences

You may not have heard of Percy Lavon Julian, but chances are you’ve used a product his groundbreaking research was responsible for. Julian was a twentieth-century research chemist whose work in chemical synthesis laid the groundwork for synthesizing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone used to treat those with hormone deficiencies. He also developed process improvements in the production of cortisone, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and corticosteroids used to treat various illnesses. Despite his substantial accomplishments, Julian faced considerable racism throughout his career. Born in 1899 to a postal worker, James Julian, and a schoolteacher, Elizabeth Adams in Montgomery, Alabama, the younger Julian and his five siblings were steered toward education at a young age. However, upon attending DePauw University in Indiana, Julian could not live in the dormitory at his own college due to segregation. In fact, it took days for him to find a place to eat. Nevertheless, he...


Feb 12, 2021