“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Greencastle in Putnam County, Indiana — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975)

Synthesis of Physostigmine

Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
1. Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker
Inscription.  In a lifetime of continual striving, Percy L. Julian succeeded against the prejudices and discriminations of his time to become a pathbreaking synthetic chemist, a successful industrial research director, and a wealthy businessman. He was born in Montgomery, Ala., on April 11, 1899, the son of a U.S. railway postal clerk and the grandson of slaves.

He did well in school but there was no public high school for African Americans in Montgomery. Julian completed the highest grade possible there, but was inadequately prepared for college. In the fall of 1916, at the age of 17, he was accepted as a sub-freshman at DePauw University. In addition to his regular college courses, he took classes at Greencastle High School. In spite of this, upon graduation Julian was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a B. A. Degree in 1920 as valedictorian of his DePauw class. Julian’s chosen path of chemistry would prove to be very difficult. Because of his race, Julian found it impossible to continue graduate work in chemistry. He obtained a position as an instructor in chemistry at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tenn.

After two years
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at Fisk, Julian won an Austin Fellowship to Harvard and received his M.A. Degree in 1923. Again, he faced disappointment when no job offer was forthcoming. In succeeding years, he served on the staff of predominantly Black institutions - first at West Virginia State College and, in 1928, as head of the department of chemistry at Howard University, Washington, D.C. In 1929, Julian received a Rockefeller Foundation grant and the chance to earn his doctorate in chemistry. He elected to study natural products chemistry with Ernst Spath at the University of Vienna. He received his Ph.D. in 1931 and returned to Howard, accompanied by his friend, Josef Pikl. After two years there, internal politics forced them to leave. In 1933, through the efforts of his former professor William Blanchard, Julian returned to DePauw as research fellow. He directed research projects for senior and graduate students. It was here in Minshall Laboratory in 1935, in collaboration with Pikl, that he completed the research that would result in the total synthesis of physostigmine. This work established Julian’s reputation as a world-renowned chemist at the age of 36.

Even as a recognized and published researcher, Percy Julian was denied a faculty position at DePauw. Unable to gain an academic post, Julian turned to industry. In 1936, a door opened when Julian was offered a position as director of
Plaque Photo - - "Percy Lavon Julian" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
2. Plaque Photo - - "Percy Lavon Julian"
research for soya products for the Glidden Company in Chicago. Over the next 18 years, the results of his soybean protein research produced numerous patents and successful products for Glidden, among them a paper coating and fire-retardant foam used widely in WW II to extinguish gasoline fires on aircraft carriers. His biomedical research made it possible to produce large quantities of synthetic progesterone and hydrocortisone at low cost.

In 1953, he established the Julian Laboratories, a successful enterprise. He later formed the Julian Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization. Among his many lifetime honors was election, in 1973, to the National Academy of Sciences. Other honors included recognition by the United States Postal Service with the issuance in January 1993 of the Julian stamp. A total of 18 universities awarded him honorary degrees. He was active in the affairs of many civic, social and religious organizations. In 1980, DePauw named its science and mathematics center in his honor.

Percy L. Julian and Miss Anna Johnson of Baltimore, Md., were married on December 24, 1935, in Spencer, Ind. They had two children, Percy Jr. and Faith Julian.

Dr. Percy Julian died on April 19, 1975. The family home is located in Oak Park, Illinois.
Erected by Heritage Preservation Society.
Topics and series.
Long View - - Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
3. Long View - - Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker
This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansEducationScience & Medicine. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities series list. A significant historical month for this entry is January 1993.
Location. 39° 38.635′ N, 86° 51.814′ W. Marker is in Greencastle, Indiana, in Putnam County. Marker is at the intersection of South Vine Street and East Washington Street (U.S. 231), on the right when traveling south on South Vine Street. Located on the "Heritage Wall". Top row - - fourth from the left. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Greencastle IN 46135, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Eli Lilly & The Civil War (1861–1865 ) (here, next to this marker); Cannon's Men's Wear 1891 -- 1985 (here, next to this marker); Abraham Lincoln's Biography (here, next to this marker); Julian Family Home (here, next to this marker); Eitel's Flowers (here, next to this marker); Donald J. Cook (1915 - 2005) (here, next to this marker); Women in Greencastle History (here,
"Heritage Wall" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
4. "Heritage Wall"
next to this marker); The Founding of the Lilly Family in Greencastle, Indiana (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Greencastle.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . .  Physostigmine - Wikipedia. (Submitted on June 23, 2012, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
Other View - - Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Courtesy:: Marilyn S. Wolf, June 10, 2012
5. Other View - - Percy Lavon Julian ( 1899--1975 ) Marker
Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975) image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Fair Use
6. Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975)
Credits. This page was last revised on January 30, 2021. It was originally submitted on June 12, 2012, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 836 times since then and 50 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on June 12, 2012, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.   6. submitted on January 30, 2021. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Nov. 30, 2023