Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mercy From Percy

Percy Julian returned to DePauw University, where his reputation for inventing was established in 1935 by his synthesizing physostigmine from the calabar bean. Percy Julian went on to become director of research at the Glidden Company, a paint and varnish manufacturer. He developed a process for isolating and preparing soy bean protein, which could be used to coat and size paper, to create cold water paints, and to size textiles. During World War II, Percy Julian used a soy protein to produce AeroFoam, which suffocates gasoline and oil fires.

Percy Julian was noted most for his synthesis of cortisone from soy beans, used in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. His synthesis reduced the price of cortisone. Percy Julian was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990 for his "Preparation of Cortisone" for which he received patent #2,752,339. Dr. Percy Lavon Julian was born on April 11, 1899, and died on April l9, 1975.U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater had this to say about Percy Julian:
  • "Those who had earlier sought to keep their slaves in chains were well aware of the threat education posed to their 'peculiar' institution. Consider what happened to the grandfather of Dr. Percy Julian, the great Black research chemist who, over his lifetime, was awarded 105 patents--among them a treatment for glaucoma and a low-cost process to produce cortisone.

  • When Percy Julian decided to leave Alabama to go to college in Indiana, his entire family came to see him off at the train station, including his ninety-nine year old grandmother, a former slave. His grandfather was also there. His grandfather's right hand was two fingers short. His fingers had been cut off for violating the code forbidding slaves to learn to read and write."
If it had not been for cortisone, I am not sure I would be here.  I had asthma so bad as a teen that those injections kept me alive.  My lungs would shut down from ragweeds.

Remember I said I hate ragweeds?  They actually nearly killed me.

God Bless Percy and all of the scientists like George Washington Carver, the inventor of peanut butter.  I think LuAnn would like thank him for that!

Ed Winkle


  1. So that's what the Google Doodle was about yesterday? I noticed there was a different doodle, but I didn't have time to hover over to see what the link was for.
    Black scientists in a white lab coat, that must have generated jokes in his time! ;)
    Julian seems to have had a great affinity with soybean, I wonder if there's other scientists today who also work to unleash the potential of this miracle crop, using its proteins and oil for medical or industrial or other applications.

    Asthma nearly killed me too, but much younger, I am glad they sent me to spend a summer in a sanatorium in the mountain range of the Massif Central, probably when I was about 8. I was gargling with the high-in-sulfur water of the natural volcanic spring, bathing in it and inhaling its steam several times a day, cured me of asthma for ever. Thanks to the French health care system that paid for all of it!

    I can feel it's still not far away when I do intensive effort, that's why I love long distance running (which is also a great book by Alan Sillitoe and movie by Tony Richardson) but not sprinting. I also had an episode of asthma in my late teens when I was researching medicinal plants. I read somewhere that celandine was supposed to cure asthma, which I had not have for many years, so I decided to make an herbal tea of it to try it out. It was horrible to taste, more bitter than anything I ever tried in my life before and since, but the amazing thing is that it immediately gave me what's called an asthma crisis, basically a very painful difficulty to breathe. It took a couple of hours for me to recover. I thought that maybe there was some truth in this folk asthma medication: If I got asthma from taking it, maybe it will cure asthma from those who already have. Or kill them, which in a way is also a permanent cure... ;)
    I used it for another less dangerous medical purpose, to get rid of a wart on my thumb. I put a drop of the bright orange sap on top of the wart several times a day (plenty of celandine growing around for fresh sap, I needed only to pick a small twig each time), and the wart disappeared totally after just a few days. I didn't have a second wart for comparison though, so maybe it would have disappeared naturally, teenagers usually don't grow warts at this age.

    Like most Papaveraceae, the sap or latex of these plants is very toxic, experiment safely. As I remember, celandine is one of three European species of that family, with the corn poppy, a weed of summer cereals like wheat, and fumitory or "earth smoke", a weed of rich soils that I also encountered frequently. Since it was missing one, I just added an 'Etymology' section to

  2. Yes, that is what the Doodle was about. I had heard about him but never knew much about his great discoveries until I dug a little deeper. I had studied George Washington Carver as a teen and duplicated some of his experiements. I had a little laboratory in the basement of our house and liked to learn what others had learned before me.

    The LaMotte test kit became my lab outside as I really liked to learn about the chemistry of plants. So many things we take for granted today was discovered in the last 100 years. Some weeds were very posinous and did have to be handled very carefully. I didn't have the safety equipment and training I needed to work with them so I concentrated on the good things that come from plants.

    I remember keeping stock out of taxus ewes because a few bites would kill them. We had one old crazy cow that was missing something and would eat the walnut trees and that eventually killed her. It was neat to find my state research center find a use for the deadly taxus and create a cancer fighting drug that is used yet today to fight breast and other cancers. They work as well in some people as cortisone did in me.

    Even aspirin is deadly to some body types like LuAnn's but it is a good true for other body types like mine.

    The mystery of the world of chemicals from plants, we know so little yet today!


  3. Well it seems we know less and less about the mysteries of the chemicals in plants every time I taste a store-bought carrot or tomato. These are obviously missing a lot of chemicals compared to the ones at the market! ;)