Percy Lavon Julian


Honorary Degree (1969)
Doctor of Science
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Joseph Sutton


Percy Lavon Julian, grandson of slaves, was born on a farm near Montgomery, Alabama. An exceptional student, he was persuaded and aided by a teacher from Putnam County, Indiana, to go north to DePauw. Despite deficiencies in his high school training and the necessity of working his way through school, he graduated four years later valedictorian of his class and wearer of a Phi Beta Kappa key. Also by then a Hoosier, since his family had moved to the state, he was eventually to have another bond through a daughter who attended I.U. His master's and doctor's degrees, received from Harvard University and the University of Vienna, respectively, were made financially possible by five fellowship awards.

Dr. Julian's career as a teacher, begun at Fisk University, was followed by appointments at West Virginia State College, Howard University, and DePauw. A reputation won through his pioneering research, including the total synthesis of the drug physostigmine, led to Dr. Julian's selection by The Glidden Company in 1936 as Director of Research in its Soya Products Division. Later promoted to Director of Research and Manager of Fine Chemicals for Glidden, he not only achieved significant progress in the chemistry and manufacture of sterols and sex hormones but also derived inventions leading to practical methods for manufacturing phosphatides, protein and other widely used products from soybeans.

Since 1964 he directed the Julian Research Institute of Chicago while continuing his creative research in his own laboratory and instructing selected doctoral students from the University of Illinois. A man of great imagination, vigor, and dedication, he was a member of the Executive Board, Chicago Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Board of Regents of the State of Illinois, and the governing boards of five higher educational institutions.

Among the honors and recognition already accorded him are thirteen honorary degrees, membership in Sigma Xi, the Spingarn Medal, the Distinguished Service Award of the Phi Beta Kappa Association (Chicago), the Chicagoan of the Year Award of the Chicago Sun-Times, and the American Institute of Chemists' Chemical Pioneer Award. His brilliant career has been lighted by his conviction "that the search for truth is the search for goodness, and companionship in that search is the road to real brotherhood."