PERCY LAVON JULIAN

PERCY LAVON JULIAN

1899-1975

Percy Lavon Julian, the creator of a drug that saved thousands from developing blindness, was born in Montgomery, Alaba¬ ma, where his education was so poor that he had to enter remedial courses to meet his first year requirements at DePauw Univer¬ sity. Determined and intelligent, Julian improved immensely, graduating as the valedictorian of his class.

Though Julian’s record was excellent, and his determination to study chemistry exceptional, top rated graduate schools were still lumbering under segregationist policies. Julian taught chemistry at Fisk University for two years before Harvard accepted him as a student.

After completing his graduate degree, Julian went back to teaching, working first at West Virginia State College, and later at the exceptional Howard University in Washington, DC. His doctorate was completed in Vienna, where Julian first started to experiment with the medicinal properties of soybeans.

Returning to the US, Julian used his results to create a new drug that fought the effects of glaucoma, a debilitating disease that resulted in blindness. Physostigmine was such a breakthrough that Dean Blan¬ chard from DePauw University quickly rec¬ ommended that Julian be invited to head the university’s chemistry department. Though he’d graduated valedictorian and gone on to produce an invaluable drug, racial prejudice again kept him from being offered the posi¬ tion.

One person who was not concerned with Julian’s race was W.J. O’Brien of the Glid- den Paint Company. Hiring Julian to work as Glidden’s head chemist, O’Brien’s foresight turned a company suffering from heavy losses into a prosperous one.

Julian opened his own pharma¬ ceutical company in 1953. Julian Laboratories became an overnight success, but its creator continued researching and working toward the relief of pain and the extension of life, accepting numerous awards and an honorary Ph.D. from DePauw University.

During his life, Julian developed over 100 patents, including: “Aero- Foam,” used as an extinguisher of gas and oil fires during World War II; a hormone made from soybeans that treated some forms of cancer; and a system for manufacturing cortisone that was used against arthritis. Work¬ ing always toward the greater health and well-being of all people, Julian produced numerous lifesaving chem¬ ical products that furthered the evolu¬ tion of medicine.