His house was firebombed. He lost his job on the eve of the Depression. He took on powerful, entrenched interests in the scientific establishment and overcame countless obstacles to become a world-class chemist, a self-made millionaire, and a humanitarian. Yet despite his achievements, Percy Julian’s story is largely unknown.
The grandson of Alabama slaves, Julian broke the color barrier in American science more than a decade before Jackie Robinson did in baseball. A brilliant innovator, he discovered a way to turn soybeans into synthetic steroids on an industrial scale, helping to make drugs like cortisone available to millions.
While he'd encountered the same racial obstacles all black scientists of his generation faced, Julian had overcome them more successfully than any other African-American in the first half of the 20th century.
In Forgotten Genius, a special two-hour presentation starring Tony-award winning actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson, NOVA brings Julian’s scientific breakthroughs and gripping biography to life, with vivid period reenactments based on newly opened family archives and interviews with dozens of colleagues and relatives.