Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Lion in Winter

Source: ACIEE | Karen Ostertag
Carl Djerassi + Jeffrey Seeman + Angewandte Chemie
= Must-read material.

Just when you thought you couldn't get enough of Carl's 90th birthday festivities, a new collection of personal quotes has appeared online this week. Djerassi - chemist / author / poet / provocateur - does not disappoint. For the more chemically-inclined, it's full of "Didja know?" moments - for instance, Woodward, Djerassi, and Tishler all submitted syntheses of cortisone to JACS within 3 weeks of each other!

The bulk of the text explores Djerassi's feisty, garrulous backlog of quotables. Here's just a sampling:

On his stamp: "Since 2005, people in Austria - by now thousands - have been licking the back of my head"

On publication: "You owe it to the students and those who collaborate with persuaded them to do it, and obviously at the time that it was worth doing. Presumably, if they completed it, it was good enough to be published."

On community: "Scientists operate within a tribal culture whose rules, mores and quirks generally not communicated through specific lectures and books, but rather are acquired through a form of intellectual osmosis in a mentor-disciple relationship"

The rest run the gamut from social movements (performance-enhancing drugs, the Pill, sex, schadenfreude) to deeply personal hurts (professional exclusion, his daughter's suicide), and end on a peaceful, affirming story concerning the motto of the Djerassi ranch (SMIP, but I won't spoil the secret...)

Give it a read, it's worth every minute.

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