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Black History Month: Dr. Percy Lavon Julian

Posted on February 1, 2022
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The following blog post is authored by Annaliese Collins, a public health major at Muhlenberg College, class of 2023. They are passionate about peer education, community health and wellness, and disease prevention.


Black History Month
Black History Month challenges Americans to learn more about the integral role that Black Americans have in the history of our country. 

Some of the most important developments made within the fields of medicine and science were made possible by Black doctors, biologists, professors, researchers, and patients. Families Fighting Flu will be reflecting on the legacies of five Black pioneers in medicine and science. In this post, we highlight Dr. Percy Lavon Julian.

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian
Dr. Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975) was a steroid chemist and entrepreneur who most notably changed the process of sourcing steroids and hormones from animal tissue to readily available and abundant plant sources. Dr. Julian faced systemic barriers as the grandson of enslaved peoples and a young Black student in Montgomery, Alabama. He simultaneously earned his GED and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at DePauw University, and later completed his master’s degree in organic chemistry at Harvard University. After gaining employment from a soybean factory as a researcher and developer, Julian discovered that steroids could be synthesized from the plant. In 1949, Dr. Percy Lavon Julian inexpensively synthesized hydrocortisone and cortisone, which are both widely prescribed and used today.

 

Sources:

https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/percy-lavon-julian
https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2007/januaryfebruary/feature/percy-julian

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