Dr. Carl Djerassi, Father of The Pill, Has Died

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Dr. Carl Djerassi (Rutgers News)

Modern contraception pioneer Dr. Carl Djerassi died last Friday in San Francisco. He was 91 years old, and had suffered from complications of liver and bone cancer.

Often called the father of The Pill, Djerassi found an essential component of the now-common family planning product. In 1951, while working as a researcher at Syntex in Mexico City, he and two others successfully synthesized norethindrone, a progestin that later provided the base of the modern birth control pill. Djerassi and his team received a patent for their discovery.

Initially, the scientists thought that norethindrone would help fertility, but they soon realized that it served another purpose. The team knew that progesterone inhibited ovulation during pregnancy. They modified the progestin’s basic structure and added ethisterone, a compound thought to be devoid of medical value. (Warning: science-speak ahead.)

Djerassi’s team found that they could change the structure of progesterone to increase its potency eightfold. This progesterone analogue was strong enough to work when injected, but lost its potency when administered orally…Djerassi’s group made the same chemical modification in ethisterone that they had earlier made in progesterone.

(Interesting side note: At the time, Djerassi wasn’t researching anything to do with conception when he and his team made his famous discovery. He was actually looking for a compound that could be used to treat cancer. Happy accident, as they say.)

After five years of clinical trials, the birth control pill began reached the mass market, and cracked 1960s sexual norms wide open. (And we’re still feeling the effects of it today.)

This wasn’t his only big discovery: Djerassi also patented the first antihistamine, the drug that prevents allergy symptoms.

During his lifetime, Djerassi received 34 honorary doctorates. He was also the recipient of the National Medal of Science for chemistry in 1973, and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 1991. The two awards are the U.S.’s highest science and technology honors, respectively.

In addition to his scientific accomplishments, Djerassi also wrote plays (some performed off-Broadway) and science-fiction, founded a company to control insect growth, and started an artists’ colony in his property in California.

Dr. Djerassi’s contributions to family planning were, and continue to be, a boon to women the world over, and his work will continue to hold great value for the coming generations.

Thank you, Dr. Djerassi. Thank you.

 

 

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Ivy League Sex Weeks: By The Numbers

Ivy League university crests

Ivy League university crests

“Russia Today” recently reported that Ivy League university Harvard would offer a class on anal sex during their upcoming annual Sex Week. This isn’t the first time the class has been offered; that back in Fall 2012. Harvard’s Sex Week focuses on providing comprehensive sex education to students with a sex-positive outlook and shedding light on aspects that might not be ordinarily covered.

Yale holds the most famous Sex Week, which began in 2002 and was coordinated at the time by students Eric Rubenstein and Jacqueline Farber. But the program has now spread to other schools.

As the program takes root at other schools, let’s take a look at other Ivy League Sex Weeks:

Brown University: 

Site: Sextion: ***Sex Week 2014 (related article)

Started: N/A

Coordinated by: Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council (SHEEC)

Most Recent Sex Week: Mar. 31-Apr. 6, 2014

Notable Classes: “Dirty Talk,” “The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure” (2013)

Notable Guests: sex educator Charlie Glickman, activist Katee Stewart (2013)

Awards: N/A

 

Columbia University:

N/A

Columbia doesn’t have a Sex Week.

 

Cornell University:

Site: Cornell Sex Week Facebook page

Started: 2014

Coordinated by: Sex Week committee

Most Recent Sex Week: Mar. 7-19, 2014

Frequency: N/A

Notable Classes: “Combating Stigma: A Panel Discussion on HIV/AIDS,” “Introduction to Kink (with Pictures)” (2014)

Notable Guests: feminist sex writer Susie Bright, activist Urvashi Vaid (2014)

Awards: N/A

 

Dartmouth College:

N/A

Dartmouth doesn’t have a Sex Week.

 

Harvard University: 

Site: Sex Week at Harvard

Started: 2010

Coordinated by: Sexual Health Education & Advocacy throughout Harvard College (SHEATH)

Most Recent Sex Week: Nov. 2-8, 2014

Frequency: Held twice every school year, once during each fall and spring semester

Notable Classes: “Love, Sex and Faith,” “Sexing the Body in Art and Media,” “#FutureSex: How technology will change your sex life” (Fall 2013)

Notable Guests: filmmaker Therese Schechter (Spring 2013), sexologist Jill McDeavitt (Fall 2012)

Awards: N/A

 

Princeton University:

N/A

Awards: Despite the fact that the school doesn’t have its own Sex Week, Princeton took top honors in Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card in 2013.

 

University of Pennsylvania:

Site: Upenn Sex Week | All about sex

Started: 2013

Coordinated by: N/A

Most Recent Sex Week: Apr. 2-6, 2013

Frequency: N/A

Notable Classes: Erotica writing, “Asexuality 101” (Spring 2013)

Notable Guests: Cindy Gallop, “Make Love Not Porn” (Spring 2013)

Awards: N/A

 

Yale University:

Site: N/A

Started: 2002

Coordinated by: Sex Week committee

Most Recent Sex Week: 2014

Frequency: Held every other year in February on the week running up to Valentine’s Day

Notable Classes: “Fornication 101 with Oh Megan!,” “BDSM and Alternative Sexualities”

Notable Guests: porn director Steven Hirsch, porn star Sasha Grey

Awards: 2004 Collegiate Network Campus Outrage Award, First Place; 2006 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, First Place and only school with a perfect score