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African-American chemist Dr. Percy Lavon Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1899. After a lifetime of research, invention, and humanitarian effort, he died in Chicago in 1975.

I know about Percy Julian because I went to a junior high named after him in Oak Park, IL. They changed the name from Hawthorne in 1985. The name change came because all of Oak Park's schools were named after dead white poets, and Oak Park being the diverse village it is, decided to rename the school after one of its first African-American residents. Maybe it was just an apology for his house being firebombed twice when he first moved in.

Julian made some serious drugs out of the ol' soybean. Not only did this create affordable drugs, but it also advanced research in the use of plant extracts. Here are just some of the synthesized drugs he derived from soy protein: Some other accomplishments:

Class valedictorian from Depauw University in 1920.
Earned MA from Harvard in 1923 and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Vienna in 1931.
Holder of 19 honorary degrees and 18 civic and academic citations, including to the National Academy of Sciences in 1973.
A stamp was issued in his honor in 1993.

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