Politico Magazine this week runs its annual “Why They Mattered” feature, selecting 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, but failed to mention the two women activists who actually funded the research and fought the Supreme Court for legalization – Margaret Sanger, forerunner of Planned Parenthood, and philanthropist Katharine McCormick.
They mattered, too!
Here’s 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.