Monday, August 29, 2016

A Tale by Mail

Long-time readers will no doubt be aware of my running affectation with the "Profiles, Pathways, and Dreams" series of books from ACS; books which, had I not read them in grad school, would probably cause this blog to never exist.

So I have a sneaky hobby: scouring the Internet's used book counter to assemble an entire set. Thus far, I've collected 17 of the 22 from the original 1990-1995 run. As I'm simultaneously trying for thrift, I'm proud to say the most I've paid for one of these books was around $25.

One of the best came in the mail only today - a first-edition, basically mint copy of Djerassi's Steroids Made it Possible. You know, the one with the picture of Nobelist R.B. Woodward going Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! on another esteemed chemist?

Steroids Made it Possible, ACS Books, p. 60

I open the plastic packaging, breathe in the old-book-paper smell.  But wait, there's no library markings. And the book is, what, 26 years old, and is basically undamaged? Curiously, I opened the cover, and realized that Djerassi himself had dedicated it:


To whom, exactly? Why, to Larry Lehmkuhl, the previous president of St. Jude Medical, according to Bloomberg. And is that really Carl's signature? I've compared it against two *for sale* on eBay and at Amazon - $89 euro and $39.85, as of this writing, respectively - it's the real McCoy.

This, of course, raises more questions: Did Lehmkuhl ever read his gift? Was he from a chemistry background? (I can't find much about him through the usual channels).

Did Djerassi mail out copies of his books, en masse, to anyone interested? If so, perhaps other signed treasures are out there, waiting to be found.

13 comments:

  1. As an ardent lover of fine literature and someone who spent grad school working on a steroid synthesis, I am deeply jealous of you right now.

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  2. The one by MSJ Dewar is my favourite so far.
    I can also recommend a fantastic book by Alexander Todd, A Time to Remember. It is written in a similar style to the "Profiles..."

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  3. Have you managed to collect the other five? I recently ordered the one authored by Rolf Huisgen. I am a big fan as his work was the basis of my PhD thesis. Where do you buy the books from? (Amazon?)

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  4. I was fortunate to meet Prof. Carl Djerassi when he visited University of Lincoln, UK to promote his play in 2014 (just 6 months before his death). I had a brief chat with him before he signed a copy of his book 'Sex in the age of Technological Revolution'.

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