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Percy Lavon Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1899. He was the grandson of a slave and the oldest child of James Sumner Julian, a railway mail clerk, and Elizabeth Adams Julian, a schoolteacher. After graduating from a small normal school in his home town, he entered DePauw University as a "subfreshman" in the fall of 1916. At first he lived in the attic of a fraternity house, where he worked as a janitor and waiter in return for room and board. Later his parents moved to Greencastle to establish a home for Percy and his two brothers and three sisters, all of whom eventually graduated from DePauw.

Percy quickly made up his academic deficiencies and majored in chemistry under the guidance of Professor William M. Blanchard. The southern-born Blanchard recognized his protégé's scientific potential but recommended that he find a teaching position in a black college after graduation rather than undertake advanced training, because his skin color would limit his chances for success as a chemist.

Graduating from DePauw in 1920 at the top of his class, Percy accepted an instructorship in chemistry at Fiske University. Two years later he received a fellowship to study at Harvard, where he earned an M.A. in 1923. After two more years spent at Harvard on various research grants, he went to West Virginia State College for Negroes and later to Howard University to teach chemistry. Taking leave to study at the University of Vienna, where he received a Ph.D. in 1931, Julian found his career momentarily blocked at Howard and had to look elsewhere for a suitable position.

In 1932 his old mentor Professor Blanchard, now academic dean of DePauw University, invited Julian to return to his alma mater as a research associate in organic chemistry. For four years Julian carried on research in Minshall Laboratory that led to the successful synthesis of physostigmine, a drug used in the treatment of glaucoma. But DePauw lost the opportunity to retain the services of a brilliant scientist when the board of trustees proved unwilling to grant the black chemist a regular faculty position. Instead, in 1936 Julian became director of research for the Soya Products Division of the Glidden Company in Chicago. Percy L. Julian



During 17 years with that company he developed such products as fire-fighting foam and perfected methods for the mass production of hormones. In 1953 he formed his own company, Julian Laboratories, Inc. with headquarters in Franklin Park, Ill. and branches in Mexico and Guatemala. One of his major accomplishments was a process for the commercial production of the arthritis drug cortisone. Eventually selling the company to two large pharmaceutical firms, he organized Julian Associates and the Julian Research Institute in 1964, continuing his work as a research scientist and consultant until his death in 1975.

Throughout his life Julian maintained a deep interest in DePauw University, visiting the campus frequently as a guest lecturer, becoming a trustee in 1967, and even purchasing a farm near Greencastle as a country retreat. After his death his widow, Dr. Anna Johnson Julian, and their children, Faith and Percy Jr., established a trust fund to support research programs in the university's chemistry department and an annual Percy L. Julian Memorial Lecture. Also included was a scholarship fund to enable talented students to prepare themselves for careers in chemistry or related fields. Finally, in 1980 DePauw University rededicated the recently constructed building housing the mathematics and physical science departments as the Percy L. Julian Science and Mathematics Center.

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