Today’s Google logo honors renown chemist Percy Lavon Julian, the first African American scientist to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
During his career, Julian made a number of significant chemical advancements, including the creation of Aero-Foam, a soy-based product widely used to extinguish fires during World War II.
Julian discovered how to synthesize the male and female hormones progesterone and testosterone, as well as cortisone, which lead to the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Born in Montgomery, Alabama on this date in 1899, Julian rose to acclaim within his field despite numerous injustices suffered because of his race. After receiving his degree from DePauw University, Julian was awarded a scholarship to Harvard University where he earned his masters.
When Harvard would not allow him to continue his studies and receive his doctorate, Julian taught at other black colleges before moving to Europe to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna in Austria. He was one of the first African Americans to earn a doctorate in chemistry.
Julian founded Julian Laboratories in 1954 after leaving Glidden Company where he had started his career in the private sector. He would become one of the first black millionaires in the US when he sold his company in 1961. After his death in 1975, he was included in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990, and recognized by the American Chemical Society in 1999.
Julian died on April 18, 1975 with more than 130 chemical patents to his name.