Held at: Science History Institute Archives [Contact Us]315 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Science History Institute Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Born on April 11, 1899 in Montgomery, Alabama, Percy Lavon Julian was an African American research chemist. Born into a family of six siblings, Julian's father was a formerly enslaved man, a college graduate of what was to become Alabama State University, and a railway clerk for the United States Postal Service. His mother was also an Alabama State University graduate and a schoolteacher. Despite prevailing social stigmas against the education of African Americans beyond the eighth grade in the United States during the early 20th century, Julian and his siblings were encouraged by their parents to remain in school.
Julian attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he was the subject of significant racial discrimination. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from DePauw University in 1920, Julian served as a chemistry instructor at Fisk University after realizing the challenges he would face as a person of color pursuing a doctorate in chemistry. In 1923, Julian was awarded an Austin Fellowship in Chemistry, which allowed him the opportunity to attend Harvard University, where he received his Master of Science degree. But was unable to pursue his Ph. D. at Harvard due to further racial discrimination. In 1929, while serving as an instructor at Howard University, Julian received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship that allowed him to work at the University of Vienna, where he finally received his Ph. D. in 1931.
Over the course of his career, Julian's accomplishments included establishing his own company, Julian Laboratories Incorporated, where he synthesized steroid intermediaries from Mexican wild yams. He was the first person to synthesize the natural product physostigmine and was a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. Julian's work helped greatly reduce the cost of steroid intermediates thus expanding the use of several important drugs, including cortisone and hydrocortisone.
Percy Lavon Julian passed away on April 19, 1975.
Percy Lavon Julian Commemorative Stamp and Postal Covers Collection, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Percy Lavon Julian Commemorative Stamp and Postal Covers Collection includes several United States Postal Service stamps and postal covers commemorating the life and work of African American research chemist Percy Lavon Julian.
The Percy Lavon Julian Commemorative Stamp and Postal Covers Collection was purchased by the Science History Institute in 2023.
- Science History Institute Archives
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- Finding aid created and encoded into EAD by Sean Cureton.
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- Access Restrictions
There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.
- Use Restrictions
The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Percy Lavon Julian Commemorative Stamp and Postal Covers Collection. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.