1899-1975

Percy Lavon Julian

Location: First Floor, West Wing, North Wall, Sequence 1

Source: Western Reserve Histoical Society

Sponsor: Anonymous Faculty Member


A grandson of slaves, Percy Julian overcame prejudice, blatant job discrimination (especially in academia) and two bombings of his home to become a pioneer in the synthesis of medicinal products, an industrial research director and eventually a millionaire chemical entrepreneur. He achieved the first total synthesis of the glaucoma drug physostigmine, discovered economical ways to produce sex hormones from soybean oil, developed a low-cost commercial route to the arthritis drug cortisone and developed a fire-fighting chemical foam. After being denied several academic positions in "white" universities, he became in 1936 director of research at the Glidden Company; in 1953 he formed his own company producing steroidal drugs. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973 and after his death was honored by a U.S. commemorative stamp (1993).