Scientist Percy Julian '20 to be Inducted Into Putnam County Hall of Fame

Scientist Percy Julian '20 to be Inducted Into Putnam County Hall of Fame

September 18, 1975

Percy Julian 1974.jpgSeptember 18, 1975, Greencastle, Ind. — "A well known scientist, whose rise to world acclaim began more than 40 years ago in DePauw's old Minshall Laboratory, will be honored posthumously when the Greencastle Kiwanis Club holds its second annual Putnam County Hall of Fame" induction, notes the Banner-Graphic. "Recipient of this honor will be the late Dr. Percy Julian, who passed away in April at the age of 76. His widow, Anna Johnson Julian, will come to Greencastle to accept the Hall of Fame award."

The program will take place September 25 in the Memorial Student Union Building. Percy Julian was a 1920 graduate of DePauw University. (below right: former DePauw President Russell J. Humbert with Dr. Julian)

"Dr. Julian's rise to prominence, principally in the field of chemistry, was a triumph over handicaps," notes the newspaper. "Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1899, he was the grandson of slaves and after completing eight grades of school, he found there was Perc y Julian & Russell Humbert.jpglittle opportunity for a black youth to continue his education in his home city. After receiving what was termed a 'skimpy' high school education, Julian enrolled in DePauw University in 1916 as a sub-freshman. While he was poorly prepared for college, he chose to be a research chemist, which was then considered a 'white man's profession.' By stubborn persistence, Percy Julian made up for his educational deficiencies and graduated from DePauw in 1920 as class valedictorian with Phi Beta Kappa honors. During his undergraduate days, he waited tables, fired furnaces and played in a jazz orchestra to meet expenses."

After earning his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, "In 1932, Julian returned as a research fellow to DePauw where he succeeded in synthesizing phystostigmine, the drug used in treating glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. He also developed the chemical base for foam fire extinguishers."

Julian later became director of research for the Glidden company. "Of the 47 chemical discoveries patented by Julian and his associates, the development of a soybean extract from which he produced the compounds from which synthetic cortisone could be made may have been the greatest boon to mankind," notes the Banner-Graphic. "Now this rare and expensive drug could beJulian Lab DePauw.jpg brought down in the cost range of everyone." (at left: Julian working in his laboratory at DePauw)

Elected to the National Academy of Science in 1973, Dr. Julian held more than 100 patents and was called "one of America's greatest chemists" by Reader's Digest. He served on DePauw's Board of Trustees and was the first recipient of the University's McNaughton Medal for meritorious public service. Julian also received an honorary degree from his alma mater in 1947.

Last year, Percy Julian received the William Procter Prize for achievements in scientific research. Learn more in this story.