Last week Politico Magazine ran its annual “Why They Mattered” feature, selecting two dozen recently deceased politicos to highlight. I was asked to tell the story of chemist Carl Djerassi, who called himself “Father of the Pill.”
Standard websites gave the brilliant self-promoter credit, along with two other men who won the Nobel Prize, Gregory Pincus and Dr. John Rock.
Totally missing from online accounts were two women activists— Margaret Sanger, forerunner of Planned Parenthood, and philanthropist Katharine McCormick — who fought the Supreme Court for legalization and funded the research that put those little brown bottles on drug store shelves in 1961.
Here is the beginning of the piece:
Carl Djerassi’s celebrity status as “Father of the Pill” was one of those happy accidents in science. The young chemist was working for a pharmaceutical company in Mexico City on commercial antihistamines and steroids when he heard something unusual about Mexican women using wild yams to avoid pregnancy. His curiosity was piqued, and eventually, from those yams, he synthesized the hormone progesterone and invented the chemical basis for the pill. It was 1951, and Djerassi was only 27 years old.