Dr Percy Lavon Julian Biography


Percy Lavon Julian was an African-American chemist.  He was born on April 11, 1899, in Montgomery, Alabama, United States. His father was James Sumner Julian, who worked as a clerk in the United States Postal Office Railway Service. His mother, Elizabeth, was a schoolteacher. His parents both graduated from Alabama State University. Percy was the eldest of six children of his parents. Here his short biography is given below-

  • Name: Percy Lavon Julian
  • Birth: April 11, 1899
  • Birth Place: Montgomery, Alabama, United States
  • Education: DePauw University (B.A.); Harvard University (M.S.); University of Vienna (Ph.D.)
  • Death: April 19, 1975, Waukegan, Illinois, United States

Percy was a chemist who was inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and the second African-American scientist from any field (behind David Blackwell). He was the first to synthesize natural products of Physostigmine, the human hormone progesterone and testosterone derived from plague sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol, leading to chemical synthesis.

His work laid the foundations for the steroid drug industry’s cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills. He later started his own company to synthesize steroid mediators from the wild Mexican yam. Julian has received more than 130 chemical patents. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate in chemistry.


Julian attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. The college accepted some African-American students. After Julian finished graduating from DePauw in 1920, Julian sought to obtain a doctorate degree in chemistry. But he understood that it would be difficult for any African-American to do so. Instead, he earned a position as a chemistry instructor at Fisk University. He received an Austin Fellowship in Chemistry in 1923, which earned him an M.S. at Harvard University Gets chance. So Harvard withdrew Julian’s tuition assistance, making it impossible for him to do a Ph.D. In 1929, while an instructor at Howard University, Julian received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to continue his graduate work at the University of Vienna, where he earned a Ph.D.


At the beginning of his career, Percy was subjected to racism, and he was deprived of his job. Although he was qualified, then DePauw was not given a professorship in 1936. Besides, he has been excluded from several jobs for the same reason.

Dr Percy Lavon Julian Biography

Meanwhile, Gilead’s vice-president, W. J. O’Brien, offered him the position of director of research at Golden’s soy product division in Chicago. O’Brien offered him a very likely job because he was fluent in German, and Glidden just bought a modern continuous countercurrent solvent extraction plant to extract vegetable oils from Germany for dye and soybeans for other uses. Julian arrived in 1936 to oversee the Glade Plant rally. He then designed and monitored soy protein isolated from the world’s first plant’s oil-free soybean meal for industry-grade production. Otherwise, he researches many things.

Personal Life

Percy Lavon Julian was married in 1935 to Anna Rowsley Johnson. They had two children. Their first child was Percy Lavon Julian, Jr. Born in 1940, and then Faith Roselle Julian in 1944. In his personal life, Percy became a victim of racism in the United States. Which puts his life in trouble.

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Honor & Awards

Percy earned many honors and honorable awards in his life. The awards that he received in his career, its list are given below-

  • The Chicago Sun-Times named Percy Julian the Chicagoan of the Year in 1950.
  • Illinois State University, where Julian served on the board of trustees, named a hall named after him.
  • A structure at Coppin State University is named the Percy Julian Science Building. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • In 1993 Julian was honored on a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service.
  • The US Chemical Society recognized Julian’s synthesis of physostigmine as a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 1999.


Percy Lavon Julian died on April 19, 1975, in Waukegan, Illinois, United States. At this time his age was 76.

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