Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975), a chemist elected to Academy membership in 1973, was noted for
having synthesized and identified physostigmine, a drug used to treat glaucoma, to improve memory in
Alzheimer's patients, and as an antidote to nerve gas. He also devised a way of filtering the chemicals
in soybean oil to allow quantity production of hormones for medical applications. Julian was born in
Montgomery Alabama, the grandson of a slave. He earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from DePauw
University, after which he became an instructor at Fisk University. After Fisk, Julian obtained a
master's degree in chemistry from Harvard, and his Ph.D. in 1931 from the University of Vienna, Austria.
It was after his return to DePauw in 1933 that Julian conducted the research that led to the synthesis of
physostigmine. Julian left DePauw in 1936 to become director of research of the Soya Products Division of
the Glidden Company in Chicago. An enterpreneur as well as a scientist, in 1953 he founded Julian
Laboratories and later Julian Associates, Inc. and the Julian Research Institute. Over the course of his
career he acquired over 115 patents, including one for a fire-extinguishing foam that was used on oil and
gasoline fires during World War II.
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