Physostigmine & Hydrocortisone

Percy Julian, an African American chemist who had two fingers severed when he was punished for learning to read, was born in Alabama in 1899, barred from the public schools, but gained admittance to DePauw University in Indiana.  He had to go to the University of Vienna to earn a doctorate.  Afterwards, he returned in 1935 to DePauw where he synthesized physostigmine, a natural substance to reduce pressure in the eyeball caused by glaucoma.  His discovery cut the costs of the drug from hundreds of dollars to a few cents per gram, making treatment available worldwide and resulting in international acclaim for Julian.  He still was denied an appointment on the DePauw faculty and he left the academy for industry where he discovered a novel way to synthesize hydrocortisone, which is still used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.[i]


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