"Forgotten Genius" - 6 Feb. 2007

WGBH/NOVA

 

The grandson of Alabama slaves, African-American scientist Percy Julian overcame racial discrimination to become one of the leading chemists of the 20th century. The winning WGBH/NOVA program told his remarkable and largely unknown story. The program describes not only Julian’s early struggles to open doors traditionally closed to blacks but also his keen sense for how to do science. His work with steroids and alkaloids helped bring about a host of affordable and effective treatments for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and glaucoma. The judges praised the program for its insights into Julian’s personality and its clear explanations of the science that Julian pursued during his career as an academic and industrial chemist. Peter Spotts, science writer for The Christian Science Monitor, called the program “a superb profile of a little-known scientist that covers the science well but also raises profound issues. Not just informative, but moving.” Christine Dell’Amore, an editor at National Geographic News, said “the producers’ determination to portray Julian as an authentic person, with his own faults, gave credence to the story and allowed the viewer to related to Julian as he moved through his career.”