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Carl Djerassi's Going Places

The next time your door chime buzzes, you may be in for a big surprise - Carl Djerassi, Father of the Pill, and one of World Scientific's eminent writers, may just be at your doorstep! For the friendly postman may be handing you mails that feature his face - on a stamp.

The Austrian postal service is indeed issuing a stamp honoring the biochemist, biophysicist and writer who synthesized the oral contraceptive for women. With this, the Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Stanford University joins the rank of other renowned Jewish personalities: politicians, artists, scientists and important people from the world of medicine. They include Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Kraus, Arthur Schnitzler, Emmerich Kálmán, Arnold Schönberg and Liese Meitner to Victor Adler, Hans Kelsen and Billy Wilder.

On the recent honor, the man who was one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Medicine, was quoted by Stanford Report as saying, "Actually, 'my' stamp was the only one of a living person..."

The author of World Scientific's An Immaculate Misconception: Sex in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction and Newton's Darkness: Two dramatic Views, was born in Vienna in 1923 to two Austrian-Bulgarian doctors. His Jewish origin forced him to emigrate to the USA 15 years later.

He is widely known for his contributions to synthetic organic chemistry and physical methods of determining organic molecular structure. Professor Djerassi's effectiveness in translating scientific knowledge into technological practice is also second to none. He has researched on various fields which range from the chemistry of steroids; structure of alkaloids, antibiotics and terpenoids; synthesis of drugs to optical rotatory dispersion studies, organic mass spectrometry, and magnetic circular diehroism of organic compounds.

Since the 1980s, Professor Djerassi has been an author who examines the human aspect of natural sciences and the personal conflicts scientists face. He invented the "science-in-fiction" literary genre which includes short stories and novels. In the past seven years, he has focused on writing "science-in-theater" works, which include An Immaculate Misconception, Oxygen and Calculus. He also wrote a "non-scientific" play, EGO which premiered at the August 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Today, this world citizen who is at home in London and San Francisco continues to travel widely to give lectures and stage plays. However, the avid art-collector famous for his Paul Klee collection might not have dreamt that he would one day go places to become a collectors' item.

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Updated on 10 July 2012