Remembering ‘The Father of the Pill’
The chemist Carl Djerassi, often known as “the father of the pill,” passed away on January 30, 2015, at the age of 91. He came to the United States at 16, an Austrian Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe. He later went on to do research foundational to the development of the birth control pill—for which he received the National Medal of Science. At age 75, he became a full-time writer, penning dozens of books and plays. We remember him here with a clip from an interview we recorded with him on February 13, 2004, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
IRA FLATOW: The chemist Carl Djerassi, often known as ‘The Father of the Pill’ passed away last Friday at the age of 91. He came to this country at the age of 16, an Austrian Jewish refugee from Nazi Europe. He went on to do crucial work leading to the development of the birth control pill for which he received the National Medal of Science.
As if that wasn’t enough, he became a full time writer at the age of 75, penning dozens of books and plays. Djerassi was the true definition of a Renaissance man, and we spoke to him back in 2004 where he explained his views on communicating science.
Dr. Djerassi, you call your work science in fiction. [INAUDIBLE] your playwriting. In this case, science in theater as a way to bring science to the general audience, make it more accessible? Would that be fair to describe it that way?
CARL DJERASSI: No.
IRA FLATOW: I knew I was going to be wrong on that one.
CARL DJERASSI: I want to use a smuggling devise–
IRA FLATOW: A smuggling?
CARL DJERASSI: Because if I admit that I really want to make it more accessible, a lot of people are already turned off because they don’t want to learn. So instead of telling I want to explain to you in easy language, something about science or scientists, I simply want to say I want to tell you a story.
IRA FLATOW: That’s Carl Djerassi, author, playwright, and ‘Father of the Pill’ who passed away last week at the age of 91. We at Science Friday remember his passionate science communication abilities, his always willing to appear on our program. He certainly was a friend of the show, and we’ll send condolences to his friends and family.
Christopher Intagliata was Science Friday’s senior producer. He once served as a prop in an optical illusion and speaks passable Ira Flatowese.