Carl Djerassi, a graduate of Kenyon and the inventor of the birth control pill died yesterday in San Francisco, Djerassi was 91. Djerassi emigrated to America from Austria at the age of 16. At the age of 18, Djerassi graduated with a degree in chemistry from Kenyon, having received a scholarship with help from Eleanor Roosevelt.
After receiving a doctorate in 1945 from the University of Wisconsin, Djerassi began working for a pharmaceutical company where he received a patent for the first commercial antihistamine.
Djerassi has been called “the father of the pill” for his breakthrough on October 15, 1951 that led to the creation of an oral contraceptive, “the pill.” He was working in a lab in Mexico City when he made the breakthrough. A year later, in 1952, he would take a position as a professor of chemistry at Wayne State University in Detroit and seven years later accept a position at Stanford, where he stayed until 2002.
In addition to his academic career, Djerassi continued work for pharmaceutical companies and devoted his free time to his cattle ranch, his art collection and his writing, which in addition to scientific texts, includes novels and plays.
In 1973 President Nixon awarded Djerassi the National Medal of Science and in 1991 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology an Innovation by President Bush. He split his time between California, London, and Vienna. His New York Times obituary can be read here.