Carl Djerassi, Professor Emeritus, Stanford University, CA, USA, best known for his work on the contraceptive pill, has passed away on January 30, aged 91.
Djerassi was born in 1923 in Vienna, Austria. His family emigrated to the United States in 1939 in the wake of the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany. He studied chemistry at Kenyon College, Gambier, OH, USA, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, in 1945. After four years as research chemist with CIBA Pharmaceutical Co. in Summit, NJ, USA, he joined Syntex, S.A., in Mexico City in 1949 as Associate Director of Chemical Research. From 1952 to 1959, he was Professor of Chemistry at Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA. In 1959, he joined Stanford University, where he became Professor Emeritus in 2002. Concurrently with his academic positions, he also held various posts at Syntex. In 1968, he helped found Zoecon Corporation, a company developing novel approaches to insect control, serving as its board chairman until 1988.
Professor Djerassi’s research focused on natural products, as well as applications of physical measurements and computational techniques to organic chemistry. He was involved with important developments in the fields of oral contraceptives, antihistamines, and topical corticosteroids.
He has also been the author of several literary works dealing with the ethics and human aspects of modern scientific research.
Among numerous other honors, Carl Djerassi has been awarded both the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology of the USA, has received 34 honorary doctorates, and has been the recipient of the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europeae, the Perkin Medal of the Society for Chemical Industry, the Priestley Medal of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, the Great Merit Cross of Germany, and the Prize for Authors and Journalists of the GDCh (Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, German Chemical Society). He was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society (London), as well as the Leopoldina and many other academies.
Selected Scientific Publications
- History of Oral Contraceptives,
- Steroids. LIV. Synthesis of 19-Nov-17α-ethynyltestosterone and 19-Nor-17α-methyltestosterone,
C. Djerassi, L. Miramontes, G. Rosenkranz, F. Sondheimer,
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1954, 76, 4092–4094.
- Heterocyclic Amines with Antihistaminic Activity,
C. P. Huttrer, C. Djerassi, W. L. Beears, R. L. Mayer, C. R. Scholz,
J. Am. Chem. Soc. 1946, 68, 1999–2002.
Selected Literary Publications
- Oxygen: A Play in 2 Acts,
C. Djerassi, R. Hoffmann,
- An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction,
Imperial College Press, 2000.
- Cantor’s Dilemma: A Novel,
Penguin Books, 1991.
Also of Interest
- Book Review: Chemistry in Theatre
ChemViews Mag. 2013.