04/11/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Google Recognizes A Color Barrier Breaking Genius


Today's Google Doodle displays a collage celebrating the life of chemist Dr. Percy Lavon Julian. He is perhaps best known for his crucial role in the development of several now highly accessible medicinal drugs, but also as an early defiant of racial segregation in the United States.

percy julian google doodle

Despite being born in 1899 to a family in Montgomery, Alabama -- a time and place where racial inequality robbed him of the right to a high school education -- Julian enjoyed a brilliant academic career and went on to reign as one of America’s most influential chemists. The trailblazing Alabama man finished his undergraduate work at DePauw University and completed a masters degree at Harvard on a scholarship.

Although he was not allowed to receive a PhD from the Ivy League institution, nor earn a professorship from Depauw, Julian traveled to Austria and got a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Vienna and taught chemistry at numerous black colleges and universities.

The late, great doctor held over 100 patents, and founded The Julian Laboratories, Inc. as well as a chemical plant in Guatemala. With numerous awards and honorary degrees under his belt -- not to mention an Illinois high school named after him -- Percy Julian remains a legend in the world of science and medicine. His legacy lies in medicinal chemical discoveries we continue to count on for medicating glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, chemical birth control, and immune suppressing medicines for organ transplants.

In regards to his social activism, Julian put reservations about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X aside to get on board with the Civil Rights Movement. He especially supported the NAACP, and their Defense and Education Fund's legal challenges to segregation. His family endured two firebomb incidents on their home when they were the first people of color to move to Oak Park, Illiniois, a place where the pioneer chemist's birthday is now celebrated as a holiday.

Dr. Percy Julian would have been 115 years old today.

percy julian



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