Outline Biography – Carl Djerassi
Djerassi was born in
Concurrently with his academic positions, he also held various posts at Syntex during the period 1957-1972, including that of President of Syntex Research (1968-1972). In 1968, he helped found Zoecon Corporation, a company dedicated to developing novel approaches to insect control, serving as its chief executive officer until 1983. He continued until 1988 as chairman of the board of Zoecon (now a subsidiary of Novartis, Ltd).
Djerassi has published over twelve hundred articles and seven monographs dealing with the chemistry of natural products (steroids, alkaloids, antibiotics, lipids, and terpenoids), and with applications of physical measurements (notably optical rotatory dispersion, magnetic circular dichroism, and mass spectrometry) and computer artificial intelligence techniques to organic chemical problems. In medicinal chemistry he was associated with the initial developments in the fields of oral contraceptives (Norethindrone), antihistamines (Pyribenzamine) and topical corticosteroids (Synalar).
For the first synthesis of a steroid contraceptive, Djerassi received the National Medal of Science (1973), the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1978), and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame (1978). He received the National Medal of Technology for his contributions in the insect control field (1991). The American Chemical Society honored him with its Award in Pure Chemistry (1958), Baekeland Medal (1959), Fritzsche Award (1960), Award for Creative Invention (1973), Award in the Chemistry of Contemporary Technological Problems (1983), Priestley Medal (1992), and the Willard Gibbs Medal (1997). Other recognitions include the American Institute of Chemists Freedman Foundation Patent Award (1970) as well as its Chemical Pioneer Award (1973), the Society for Chemical Industry’s Perkin Medal (1975), the Bard Award in Medicine and Science (1983), the Roussel Prize (Paris) (1988), the Discoverer’s Award of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (1988), the Gustavus John Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest (1989), the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science (1990) from the National Academy of Sciences, the Nevada Medal (1992), the Thomson Gold Medal of the International Mass Spectrometry Society (1994), the Prince Mahidol Award (Thailand) in Medicine (1995), the Sovereign Fund Award (1996), the William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement, Sigma Xi (1998), the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art (1999), the Othmer Gold Medal of the Chemical Heritage Foundation (2000), the Author’s Prize of the German Chemical Society (2001), the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europaea (2003), the Sigillum magnum of the University of Bologna (2003), the Great Merit Cross of Germany (2003), and the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists (2004).
Carl Djerassi is a member of the U.S. National Academy of
Sciences and of its Institute of Medicine, as well as a member of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Royal
Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, the German Academy of Natural
Scientists (Leopoldina), the Academia Europeae, and the Mexican, Bulgarian, and
Brazilian Academies of Sciences. The Royal Society of Chemistry (
Starting in 1986 has published numerous poems and short stories in literary magazines as well as a collection of short stories, The Futurist and Other Stories; five novels: Cantor's Dilemma, The Bourbaki Gambit, Marx, Deceased, Menachem’s Seed, and NO; two autobiographies, Steroids Made it Possible and The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse; a poetry chapbook, The Clock Runs Backward; a collection of essays, From the Lab into the World: A Pill for People, Pets, and Bugs; and a memoir, This Man’s Pill: Reflections on the 50th birthday of the Pill.
In 1997, he has started writing “science-in-theatre” plays.
The first, AN IMMACULATE MISCONCEPTION, premiered at the 1998 Edinburgh
Fringe Festival and was subsequently staged in London (New End Theatre in 1999
and Bridewell Theatre in 2002), San Francisco (Eureka), New York (Primary
Stages), Vienna (Jugendstiltheater), Cologne (Theater am Tanzbrunnen), Munich
(Deutsches Museum), Sundsvall (Teater Västernorrland), Stockholm (Dramaten),
Sofia (Satire Theatre), Geneva (Theatre du Grütli), Tokyo (Bunkyo Civic Hall
Theatre) and Seoul. The play has been translated into 9 languages and also
published in book form in English, German, Spanish and Swedish. The BBC
broadcast the play in 2000 as “play of the week” on the World Service and the
West German Rundfunk (WDR) and Swedish Radio did so in 2001. The second,“OXYGEN,”
(co-authored with Roald Hoffmann) premiered in April 2001 at the San Diego
Repertory Theatre; in Germany at the Mainfranken Theater in Würzburg (Sept. 2001);
in London at the Riverside Studios (Nov. 2001); and subsequently in 2003 in
Seoul, Tokyo (Setagaya Tram Theatre), New Zealand (Circa Theatre, Wellington),
as well as in Toronto, Ottawa, Madison, WI, Columbus, OH and Bologna, and was
broadcast by both BBC World Service and the West German Radio in December 2001.
It has already been translated into 10 languages. His third
“science-in-theatre” play, “CALCULUS” and his first “non-scientific”
play, EGO, opened in 2003 in