Dr. Carl Djerassi, inventor of 'The Pill,' to receive honorary doctorate from Rutgers University

May 04, 2010

(Newark, NJ)--An honorary degree from Rutgers University will be awarded to Dr. Carl Djerassi, emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University. Djerassi is a scientist, educator, author, playwright, and philanthropist. He is known worldwide as the inventor of "The Pill" - the first researcher to synthesize a steroid oral contraceptive.

Djerassi will be awarded the honorary doctorate and will speak at the convocation for Rutgers University's Newark College of Arts and Sciences and University College-Newark, to be held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, in Newark, NJ, Monday, May 17 at 2 pm. He will also be recognized during the university-wide commencement ceremonies at Rutgers in New Brunswick, on Sunday May 16.

Djerassi will be returning to receive his Rutgers honorary degree to the city where he began his education in the United States after emigrating from Austria in the 1930s. He attended high school in Newark, New Jersey, and was a student at Newark Junior College. He went on to finish his undergraduate degree at Kenyon College in Ohio, and did his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his Ph.D. Djerassi worked at CIBA Pharmaceutical Co. in New Jersey and Syntex, S.A. in Mexico City before becoming a professor, first at Wayne State University, and since 1959 at Stanford University until his retirement in 2002.

Perhaps best known as the first to synthesize a steroid oral contraceptive (norethindrone, which is more commonly known as "the Pill") for which he received the National Medal of Science in 1973, Djerassi has also conducted path-breaking work in the areas of steroid anti-inflammatory agents and antihistamines. He is credited with pioneering research in synthetic organic chemistry and medicinal chemistry and made contributions in the insect control field for which he received the National Medal of Technology in 1991.

Recognized for his breakthroughs in chemistry, his effective translation of theory into practice, and his efforts to promote international scientific cooperation in Latin America and Africa, Djerassi is one of the most prolific organic chemistry researchers of his time. He has published more than 1,200 articles and seven books dealing with the chemistry of natural products and the application of physical methods to organic structure determination.

In addition to his career in science, Djerassi has also achieved distinction in the arts. For the past 20 years, Djerassi has turned to fiction writing, mostly in the genre of "science-in-fiction" novels and "science-in-theater" plays that examine the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by them in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition and financial reward. His works on the culture and behavior of scientists include five highly successful novels and eight plays that have been presented on stages from London to Tokyo to New York. In 1979, he founded the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography, and music. To date, the program has served nearly 2,000 artists from all over the world. He has one of the largest private collections in the world of the works of Paul Klee, which he has donated in equal parts to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Albertina Museum in Vienna.

A member of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as many foreign academies, Djerassi has received many honors and awards. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1978. Djerassi was the first recipient of the highly prestigious Wolf Prize in chemistry and of the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science presented by the National Academy of Sciences. He also holds the American Chemical Society's highest award, the Priestley Medal, and the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europeae. An Austrian postage stamp honoring him was issued in 2004.
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Rutgers University

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