Friday, February 09, 2007

Forgotten Genius

In this time and age where it is difficult to find something to look at on television worthwhile, I was granted a blessing this past week. Outside of ESPN, CSPAN and the occasional show on HGTV, it is not easy to find material that makes one want to sit down and view it in its completeness with their family. This past week, the Public Broadcasting Service series NOVA aired the life story of one of the most remarkable scientist of the 20th century, Percy Julian.

As a child, I grew up idolizing Dr. Julian because I was always interested in chemical and chemistry and blowing up stuff, but never knew of any other chemist other than him growing up in Memphis. Born the grandson of slaves in Alabama, he attended DePauw University in Indiana. Just to pay for his education he worked as a waiter and even a ditch digger. He received his A.B. in 1920, graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was the valedictorian of his class. It was his goal to become only the second African American with a Ph.D. in Chemistry at the time. However, even with good grades, no school would offer him entry in such a program. Even the people who wrote letters of recommendation for him explaining his brilliance asked the universities of his selection to discourage him from getting a Ph.D.

Eventually, he went to Fisk University as an instructor in chemistry and eventually to Harvard as an Austin fellow. He received his Masters at Harvard, but was unable to seek his Ph.D. Julian had to travel to Europe where he finally received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1931.

Although he loved academic science, it was difficult, because of minor scandals and racism, for Dr. Julian to work in Academia. However, he was able to secure a job with the Glidden Company as the Director of Research and Development – this was some decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball. Julian’s accomplishments are many folds: he synthesized a soy sterol to manufacture male and female hormones,
progesterone and testosterone. Julian also synthesized the medicines physostigmine for glaucoma and cortisone for rheumatoid arthritis. He held more than 100 patents.

The show was aptly called "
Forgotten Genius”. I was just happy to be able to see such greatness, such stamina and such perseverance at a time when children are up and feeling blessed that I was able to share this moment with my son and daughter. Good Look Nova that was the bomb show.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

We as people of color have made a hugh gife to the world, at large. But we just can not seem to raise the self exteem of the culture. We still refer to ourselves as pimps and whores. So I guess in my era the pimps are the husbands with no jobs. And the whore must be the one who understand the black man plight.

The oreo is dead, man made. The zebra still lives, god made.

fallen angel said...

supposedly, pbs is going to have plenty of good commentary this month. yeah, it sucks that "black history month" seems like the only time we get the intellectual tidbits. but hey, that's why we need to devour these morsels as they come.

Anonymous said...

I hate I missed it! Maybe I will catch it the next time...and its just too bad that they wait until black history month to air such wonderful pieces of history! "Mi-Mi"

jd anderson said...

Thank you for the enlightment. I had never heard of this genius of color. I know that our culture have made alot of great contributions to the world. This genius (like many) had many obstacles but perseverance paid off. I'm so sorry that I missed it especially since my daughter will be taking chemistry next year. The man needs to be talked about so others will know his name

Brownsoul said...

Wow. I learned something new today. Chemistry was definitely my worst subject. Every now and then you find something worth while to share with the kids. Good stuff.

Shai said...

I missed most of the PBS special on Dr. Julian. It is sad how many brilliant black folks sufferred because of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Good day! 

I need help with my computer. I is always freezing when i open IE? What do you think?

Wow, I've found the same to be true too!  How did you find that?  

Bye, bye - Wendy! 




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Anonymous said...

This was a great show...we watched and discussed it with the girls.
Monique

www.caceres-3d.com said...

It cannot really have success, I suppose so.

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