The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse

The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse

by Carl Djerassi

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The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse by Carl Djerassi

This unusually wide-ranging memoir, moving from Europe to America, academia to industry, science to art, triumph to tragedy, is the idiosyncratic life story of Carl Djerassi, teenage refugee from Nazism and prodigiously gifted chemist who experimented with a local yam in Mexico, synthesized steroids and, along with Gregory Pincus and John Rock, fathered the birth control pill. In this personal, incisive account, Djerassi tells the story of an extraordinarily driven and successful scientist-businessman, who taught for decades at Stanford University while maintaining a foothold in industry, married three times, had two children, and became an art collector as well as author and playwright. He describes how he lost his only daughter to suicide and his beloved third wife, biographer Diane Middlebrook, to cancer and how he has continued to live his extraordinary life.

“Mr. Djerassi has a great deal to be immodest about… He is the very model of the scientist-businessman who knows how to turn his discoveries into commercially useful and profitable enterprises without jeopardizing his academic standing…” — The New York Times

“The pill here is the first oral contraceptive, synthesized by the author at age 28 in 1951; pygmy chimps were the subjects of a mid-career biomedical experiment and Degas's horse represents the delights of art collecting, to which the award-winning scientist turned in later life… Shattering the cliche of scientists as one-dimensional technocrats, the book reveals a singular life with more than its share of pain, self-discovery, danger, wit, joy and irony.” — Publishers Weekly

“Carl Djerassi, who is a scientist, artist, philosopher and mensch all in one, has produced the very best of scientific autobiography… Read this book.” — Stephen Jay Gould

“I found the first few pages so interesting that for two days I neglected my work in order to read the book from beginning to end.” — Linus Pauling, Nobel Laureate

“Delightfully unconventional… hilarious and wide-ranging.” — Arthur C. Clarke

Product Details

BN ID: 2940148247821
Publisher: Plunkett Lake Press
Publication date: 02/06/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 319
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Carl Djerassi, scientist and author, was born in Vienna in 1923 to a Bulgarian father and Viennese mother, both Jewish. He fled Nazism and arrived in the U.S. in 1939, received his PhD. in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin at 22 and moved to Mexico City with the then small pharmaceutical company, Syntex. His team synthesized cortisone from a local yam and, in 1951, the steroid oral contraceptive, norethindrone, the template on which most oral contraceptives are based. He continued to work in industry while becoming a chemistry professor, first at Wayne University (now Wayne State), then at Stanford University. After his third marriage, to Stanford English professor Diane Middlebrook, he closed his laboratories and embarked on a writing career. He divides his time between San Francisco, London, and Vienna. At 90, he has published more than 1,200 scientific papers, four autobiographies (including The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas' Horse), five novels, two nonfiction books, 11 plays, two collections of poetry, three collections of essays and short stories, and one art book. He is the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California. He has received 32 honorary doctorates and is the winner of the 1992 Priestley Medal, the highest American award in chemistry; he received the National Medal of Science in 1973 and the National Medal of Technology in 1991.

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