Why Famous: Percy Lavon Julian had a distinguished career as a chemist and was a leading figure in 20th century efforts to synthesis medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first African-American chemist to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
As an African American Julian encountered and fought prejudice throughout his life. Harvard University would not allow him to study for his doctorate and was denied a professorship at DePauw University on racial grounds.
In 1935 at DuPauw Julian became the first person to synthesize the drug physostigmine, making the drug available for the treatment of glaucoma.
In 1936 Julian went to work as a research director for Glidden, where he produced many successful patents and products, including a fire-retardant foam for gasoline fires, which saved many lives during WWII. Julian also greatly improved the process to produce Cortisone, so it could be more widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
In 1953 Julian went out on his own and founded the successful Julian Laboratories and later the Julian Research Institute. In honor of his scientific achievements and advocacy for human rights a number of schools in the Chicago are named after Julian and a US postage stamp was issued in 1993.
- 1935-12-24 Chemist Percy Lavon Julian weds sociologist Anna Roselle Johnson
- 1993-01-29 US postal service issues a stamp commemorating chemist Percy Lavon Julian