Carl Djerassi, the man touted as the father of the birth control pill, died at his San Francisco home at the age of 91 on Friday. He was an eminent chemist, who 63 years ago synthesised a female hormone that became the key ingredient for oral contraceptive pills.
According to his son Dale, Djerassi died of cancer-related complications that affected his liver and bones, The New York Times reports. He was professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford University.
An American national of Austrian Jewish descent, Djerassi is best known as a part of a two-member team of chemists working at a pharmaceutical laboratory in New Mexico to first develop norethindrone, a synthetic molecule that became the key component of first birth-control pill. Developed on 15 October 1951, Djerassi and the other chemist led the race at least by a year before similar compounds were invented in other labs.
However, it was only in the 1960s when others also contributed to oral pill's effectiveness as a birth-control medicine, that it was commercially marketed.
The oral pill proved to be an effective in family planning and radically transformed the sexual practices of women.
Djerassi arrived in America as a 16-year-old refugee, when the World War II wrecked Europe. He had written to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who was famous for helping out refugees, and sought help from her. He even attained a college scholarship.
He was also a noted novelist and playwright, with about 1,200 scientific articles to his credit, including one about the global implications of US. contraceptive research (1969) and another on feasibility of a birth-control pill for men (1970).
In his book "This Man's Pill", Djerassi said the invention of the birth control pill also changed his life and made him more interested in how science affects society.