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.