Carl Djerassi, 'Father of the Pill,' dies at 91


Carl Djerassi, 91, known as the father of the birth control bill and the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program at his Woodside ranch, died Friday, Jan. 30, at his home in San Francisco, according to a press release from the Stanford News Service.

Mr. Djerassi established the Djerassi Resident Artists Program on his ranch in Woodside in 1979 as a memorial to his daughter Pamela, who was a poet and painter. More than 2,000 artists have passed through the program, where they are provided uninterrupted time for work, reflection and collegial interaction in a setting of great natural beauty.

Starting in the 1940s, Mr. Djerassi was a primary player in synthesizing the first commercial antihistamines, and the hormones cortisone and norethindrone, the latter being the chemical basis of oral contraceptives, earning him the nickname "The Father of the Pill."

— Barbara Wood

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1 person likes this
Posted by Marianne
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Feb 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

His birth control pill saved the marital life many women who otherwise would have been faced with too many pregnancies. After all these years, it is appalling that there are still people who would deny women access to effective birth control. His artists' program revealed another side to this remarkable man. May he rest in well deserve peace.

1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Djerassi was indeed an outstanding organic chemist. However the press release and statements from some are really not at all accurate.

He was a real genius at promotion, and this hoopla about his "being the father of the birth control pill" is just that. His contribution was finding a cheap way to manufacture the key steroid by extracting it from the "Mexican Yam" and performing a few chemical transformations. He was not a expert in human reproduction and certainly these were the key research discoveries that would be attributed to being a "father" of the birth control pill.

(he along with many others made vast fortunes from the success of Syntex in the birth control area)

He ran a scientific publishing machine. He had a large research group and often 1 or 2 post-docs, would not be doing research but would be writing papers on the work done by others in the group. The number of this huge number of publications that proved to be in error (especially in the area of proof of structure) is quite high.

I find the comment by Prof. Zare: " Carl Djerassi is probably the greatest chemist our department ever had," really crazy. There have been quite a number of outstanding chemists that really would be way ahead of Djerassi on such a list. Prof. Zare should stick to what he does very well, that being research in physical chemistry, and leave such observations to those who really have a better perspective of such matters.

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