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Against all odds, African-American chemist Percy Julian became one of the great scientists of the 20th century.

Below are a few astounding facts from the film about Percy Julian and the film.

  1. The African American chemist pioneered many inventions that still impact consumers today. Julian’s research on plant-derived hormones advanced industrial-scale production and led to the development of medicinal drugs such as cortisone, steroids, and birth control pills. 
  2. Julian was awarded over 100 chemical patents and was one of the first African Americans to receive a doctorate in chemistry. 
  3. Even though he introduced many life-altering patents as an extremely gifted scientist, he still was met with extreme adversity due to the color of his skin. Julian was forced to pursue his doctorate in chemistry overseas at the University of Vienna because Harvard would not allow him to complete his teaching assistantship due to his race, and he later received death threats for living in an exclusive, predominantly-white Chicago neighborhood Oak Park, where eventually his family home was firebombed.
  4. Tony-winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Billions,” “Castle”) plays Percy Julian in the film, a role that he still considers one of the most important and meaningful of his long career on stage and screen. Santiago-Hudson is also an accomplished playwright and director, and his latest project is the adapted screenplay for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman.

The grandson of Alabama slaves, world renowned scientist Percy Julian was met with every possible barrier in a deeply segregated America. He was a man of genius, devotion, and determination. As a Black man he was also an outsider, fighting to make a place for himself in a profession and country divided by bigotry—a man who would eventually find freedom in the laboratory. By the time of his death, Julian had risen to the highest levels of scientific and personal achievement, overcoming countless obstacles to become a world-class scientist, a self-made millionaire, and a civil-rights pioneer.

Available for streaming online January 27 – February 28, 2021 9pm EST (check local listings) at PBS.org via NOVA’s YouTube channel, and on the PBS video app

Starting On: January 27, 2021


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