Carl Djerassi

Location: Fifth Floor, West Wing, South Wall, Sequence 3

Source: Professor Djerassi

Sponsor: Rosetta and William H. Reusch
Ramon F. Rolf
John H. Tanton, MD

One of the most prolific organic researchers of his time, Djerassi published over 1200 articles and seven books dealing with the chemistry of natural products (steroids, alkaloids, antibiotics) and with the application of physical measurements (optical rotatory dispersion, magnetic circular dichroism, mass spectrometry) to organic structure determination. He is credited with the first synthesis of an oral contraceptive (norethindrone), for which he received the National Medal of Science (1973) and the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1978). Among his many other honors are the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1958), the Perkin Medal of the Society for Chemistry Industry (1975) and the ACS Priestley Medal (1992).

Djerassi was born in Vienna but left Austria because of Hitler's Anschluss. He received the A.B. at Kenyon College (1942) and the Ph.D. at Wisconsin (1945). After several years in industry (CIBA Pharmaceutical, NJ and Syntex, Mexico) he joined the Wayne State University faculty (1952) and in 1959 moved to Stanford.

A truly versatile, verbal and flamboyant person, Djerassi has published numerous poems and short stories, several novels (Cantor's Dilemma, The Bourbaki Gambit, Menachim's Seed) which he characterizes as "science in fiction", a scientific autobiography (Steroids Made it Possible - his California ranch is named SMIP) and collected memoirs (The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas' Horse), and most recently, with Roald Hoffmann, a play "Oxygen". The main portrait appears on the cover of Djerassi's memoir, and the dramatic smaller portrait appears on its' German translation "Die Mutter der Pille". The ceramic hands were done by ceramic sculptor Heidi Guthmann Birck. An art collector, Djerassi founded a colony for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and music.