Photo: Karen Ostertag
Born in 1923 in Vienna but educated in the US, is a writer and professor of chemistry emeritus at Stanford University. Author of over 1200 scientific publications and seven monographs, he is only one of two American chemist to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (in 1973, for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive--”the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology (in 1991, for promoting new approaches to insect control). A member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the Royal Society (London), the Leopoldina (Germany), and many other foreign academies, Djerassi has received 32 honorary doctorates together with numerous other honors, such as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science from the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society’s highest award, the Priestley Medal, and more recently, the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europaea (2003), the Great Merit Cross of Germany (2003), the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists (2004), the Serono Prize in Literature (Rome, 2005), the Great Silver Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria (2008), and the Edinburgh Medal (2011). In 2005, the Austrian Post Office issued a stamp in his honor.
During the past 23 years, he has published short stories, poetry (A Diary of Pique) and five novels (Cantor’s Dilemma; The Bourbaki Gambit; Marx, deceased; Menachem’s Seed; NO)—that illustrate as “science-in-fiction” the human side of science and the personal conflicts faced by scientists—as well as an autobiography (The Pill, Pygmy Chimps and Degas’ Horse), a memoir (THIS MAN’S PILL: Reflections on the 50th birthday of the Pill), a biography in dialogic form (Four Jews on Parnassus—a Conversation: Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, Schönberg,) and nine plays: An Immaculate Misconception, Oxygen (written with Roald Hoffmann), Calculus, EGO, Phallacy, Taboos, Verrechnet (in German with Isabella Gregor), Foreplay, and Insufficiency. His most recent book (2012) is Chemistry-in-Theatre. Five of his plays have also been broadcast as radio plays in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic, and USA.
Djerassi is the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and performing arts, and music. Over 2000 artists have passed through that program since its inception in 1982. Djerassi lives in San Francisco, Vienna, and London.