Black History Month: Dr. Percy Julian


Percy Julian 6RHAP’s second #BlackHistoryMonthFeature is Dr. Percy Julian, a revolutionary organic chemist who set the tone for the future of contraception and family planning. Dr. Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1899. With the rural south prohibiting African American students from attending high school due to Jim Crow laws, Julian went to DePauw University with only a ninth grade education and graduated first in his class in 1920, majoring in chemistry. After gaining a Masters at Harvard University, he was faced with further discrimination, disallowing him to begin his doctoral degree. He took his studies abroad, at the University of Vienna, where he became exposed to a wider spectrum of science that he did not experience in the United States; and begun his lifelong devotion to organic chemistry and plants, specifically the soybean. When Dr. Julian returned to the States, the racial climate still proved difficult to find employment, until he was given a chance by the Glidden Company in 1936. His extensive research with soybeans lead to many successful products for the company; including the synthesizing of stigmasterol from soybean oil, thus creating the synthesis of testosterone and progesterone – male and female hormones that are found in birth control pills, and treat miscarriages. We are grateful for the contributions that Dr. Julian provided to the scientific community, and all of the medical compounds that he was able to mass produce and make affordable, for communities around the world. Contraceptive care is a basic health right and we will continue our mission of making it accessible to all.

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