Carl Djerassi, Scientist Considered Father of Birth-Control Pill, Dies
Austrian-born U.S. chemist, novelist and playwright Carl Djerassi, known for the development of the first oral contraceptive pill, talks during a news conference in Vienna, in this file picture taken November 11, 2008.HEINZ-PETER BADER / Reuters
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Carl Djerassi, the chemist widely considered the father of the birth control pill, has died. Djerrasi died of complications of cancer in his San Francisco home, Stanford University spokesman Dan Stober said. He was 91. Djerassi, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford, was most famous for leading a research team in Mexico City that in 1951 developed norethindrone, a synthetic molecule that became a key component of the first birth control pill.
In his book, "This Man's Pill," Djerassi said the invention also changed his life, making him more interested in how science affects society. In 1969, he submitted a public policy article about the global implications of U.S. contraceptive research, according to the Stanford News Service. In 1970, he published another article about the feasibility of a birth control pill for men. "The thoughts behind these two public policy articles had convinced me that politics, rather than science, would play the dominant role in shaping the future of human birth control," he wrote.
Later in life, Djerassi wrote poems, short stories and plays. He used stock earnings from the company that made the pill to help collect Paul Klee art work, which he donated to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
"Carl Djerassi is probably the greatest chemist our department ever had," Richard N. Zare, the Marguerite Blake Wilbur Professor in Natural Science at Stanford, said in an obituary released by the university. "I know of no person in the world who combined the mastery of science with literary talent as Carl Djerassi."