March 16, 2014

On this day March 16th

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

Also on March 16, 1935 Percy Lavon Julian (1898-1975) synthesized the drug physotigmine which is used today in the treatment of glaucoma. He later headed the soybean research department of the Glidden Company and then formed Julian Laboratories in order to specialize in the production of sterols which he extracted from the oil of the soybean. Perfected in 1950, the method eventually lowered the cost of sterols and ultimately enabled millions of people suffering from arthritis to obtain relief through the use of cortisone, a sterol derivative.

Percy Lavon Julian was a U.S. research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones, steroids, progesterone, and testosterone, from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry's production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills.

He later started his own company to synthesize steroid intermediates from the Mexican wild yam. His work helped greatly reduce the cost of steroid intermediates to large multinational pharmaceutical companies, helping to significantly expand the use of several important drugs.

During his lifetime he received more than 130 chemical patents. Julian was one of the first African-Americans to receive a doctorate in chemistry. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted from any field.

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