"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Percy Julian

This 1952 portrait of Julian L. Percy (1899-1975) by Richard Epperly hangs  in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
A renowned research chemist and a strong advocate for civil rights, Percy Julian encountered and overcame prejudice throughout most of his life. After graduating from DePauw University in 1920 and receiving a master's degree in chemistry from Harvard in 1923, Julian went to Europe to obtain a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of Vienna. After teaching at Howard and DePauw, Julian joined the Glidden Company in Chicago, working to create chemical compounds from soy-beans. He is best known for developing a method for synthesizing cortisone, which made that scarce drug, important for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, widely available. In 1950, when Julian and his family moved to the all-white community of Oak Park, Illinois, his home was set on fire and later firebombed. The artist, a fellow resident of Oak Park, created this painting just after those events. -- NPG

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