Saturday, January 31, 2015

RIP Carl Djerassi

Via the New York Times: 
Carl Djerassi, an eminent chemist who 63 years ago synthesized a hormone that changed the world by creating the key ingredient for the oral contraceptive known as “the pill,” died at his home in San Francisco on Friday. He was 91. He died of complications of liver and bone cancer, according to his son, Dale. 
He arrived in America as World War II engulfed Europe, a 16-year-old Austrian Jewish refugee who, with his mother, lost their last $20 to a swindling New York cabdriver. He wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, asking for assistance, and obtained a college scholarship. It was a little help that made a big difference. 
Dr. Djerassi (pronounced jer-AH-see) wrote books, plays and 1,200 scientific articles; taught at universities for five decades; created an artists’ colony in California; and obtained a patent on the first antihistamine. His work on the science of birth control helped engender enormous controversies and social changes, altering sexual and reproductive practices, family economics and the working lives of millions of women around the world...
Difficult to imagine a world without oral contraceptives. Best wishes to his family and friends.  

8 comments:

  1. He was an amazing scientist. Too bad he never got a Nobel.

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  2. In his lectures, he liked to show a picture of first Chinese (injectable) contaceptives, complete with a quote from Chairman Mao on the insert: "Place the emphasis of medicinal and hygiene work in the villages"

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  3. Frenchy metathesis dude also passed (and also made NY Times obits).

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    1. It's like Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson dying on the same day... only one will get commensurate press.

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  4. I heard the other grad students at Wisconsin realized Djerassi would be a CEO someday after he took an unattended HCl cylinder being used by another grad student because Djerassi didn't want to wait.

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    1. I have run across similar lab-mates who were very free with taking equipment and reagents being used by others and never considered them as CEO material but more in SOB ranks (which sometimes does equate). I am not sure but based on biographies I read was Djerassi ever the CEO of Syntex or elsewhere as believe he served like a VP Research/CSO and served as president (but not CEO?) at one transition? Regardless he was an interesting person based on his chemistry and wide range of other interests.

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    2. When they talk about him founding artist's colonies and whatever on his ranch(es)... it sounds like he did pretty well for himself.

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