Paul's Here

Forgotten Genius

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I saw an interesting program last night on Nova about Percy Julian. I wonder how many people know of him or learned about him during chemistry class. I had never heard of him before. I was astounded to learn of his genius in chemistry and his intense struggles against racism during his career. ("We will not give up, you and your children will be killed if you do not move.") Here was a man who had to leave the country to get his Ph.D., struggled against an employer who didn't recognize his theories, who founded his own chemistry business, established a business in Mexico because of export restrictions, still found that the government prevented him from buying his supplies, found another supply source, discovered methods of increasing product yield so significantly to make his products available to the general public at up to 10 times lower price, still couldn't get recognition within the scientific community because of the color of his skin, fought against all of them and finally got some well deserved recognition before his death. His discoveries were voted among the 25 most important chemical discoveries of the 20th century.

I found Percy Julian to be a truly inspiring individual. See Julian the Trailblazer. The TV program can be viewed at Nova.

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I saw an interesting program last night on Nova about Percy Julian. I wonder how many people know of him or learned about him during chemistry class.

It is nice to know that the Nova program had a private preview near the end of last January in a theater in Washington, D.C., and more than 500 notables and chemical industry executives turned out to honor the man and his accomplishments. The following week a bill was passed by the House "honoring the life of Percy Lavon Julian, a pioneer in the field of organic chemistry research and development and the first and only African American chemist to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences."

Many artists are not fully appreciated until they are gone, and I guess that applies to some scientists too.

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