Career Milestones

back | 4 of 8 | next

Image 4

Stigmasterol (1939)
One of Julian's greatest scientific accomplishments resulted from an accident that could have cost him his job at Glidden. Water leaked into a tank filled with $200,000 worth of pure soybean oil, causing the liquid to spoil and a white sludge to form. Within the sludge, however, lay crystals Julian recognized as stigmasterol, a plant steroid that could be converted into the pregnancy hormone progesterone. Doctors prescribed progesterone to women in an attempt to curb miscarriages, but until Julian's discovery, the drug was simply too costly for many patients to afford. Although he was not the first to convert stigmasterol into progesterone, Julian was the first to produce the hormone affordably and in bulk. Through this achievement and later hormonal research, Julian helped launch the steroid industry, whose products would eventually include cortisone and the birth-control pill.

Forgotten Genius homepage | NOVA homepage