Abbreviated Biographical Sketch

 

Carl Djerassi, emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, is one of two American chemisst to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive--”the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology (for promoting new approaches to insect control). A member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society (London) as well as the Leopoldina and many other  foreign academies, Djerassi has received 32 honorary doctorates together with numerous other honors, such as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science from the National Academy of Sciences, the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europeae, the Perkin Medal of the Society for Chemical Industry, the American Chemical Society’s highest award, the Priestley Medal, the Austrian Cross of Honor for Science and Art, and the Great Merit Cross of Germany. An Austrian postage stamp with his image was issued in 2005.

 

For the past quarter century, he has turned to fiction writing, mostly in the genre of “science-in-fiction,” whereby he illustrates, in the guise of realistic fiction, the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by scientists in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition, and financial rewards. In addition to a poetry collection (A Diary of Pique), a short story collection ("How I beat Coca-Cola and other Tales of One-upmanship"),  5 novels (“Cantor’s Dilemma;” “The Bourbaki Gambit;” “Marx, deceased;” “Menachem’s Seed;” “NO”),  autobiography (“The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse  and in 2013 "Der Schattensammler") and memoir (“This Man’s Pill”), he embarked in 1997 on a trilogy of “science-in-theatre” plays. “AN IMMACULATE MISCONCEPTION”—first performed at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and subsequently (1999 - 2005) in London, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Vienna, Munich, Cologne, Sundsvall, Stockholm, Sofia, Geneva, Seoul, Tokyo, Lisbon, and Singapore—has been translated into 12 languages and broadcast by BBC Radio on its World Service in 2000 as “Play of the Week,” in 2001 by the West German and Swedish Radio, in 2004 by NPR (USA) and in 2006 by Radio Prague. “OXYGEN” (co-authored with Roald Hoffmann) premiered in 2001 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre,at the Mainfranken Theater in Würzburg, and  the Riverside Studios in London and was broadcast by both BBC World Service and the West German Radio in December 2001. It has since been translated into 18 languages. “CALCULUS,” translated into 5 languages and published in book form in English, German, Italian, and Portuguese, premiered in 2003 in San Francisco followed by a London production in 2004 as well as performances in Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Dublin, Cambridge, Munich, and Coimbra. A chamber opera version (music by Werner Schulze) premiered in May 2005 in the Zurich Opera (Studiobühne).

 

Among his “non-scientific” plays, EGO,” premiered at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, under the title “THREE ON A COUCH” in London (2004) and in 2008 in New York. A German translation of “EGO” was broadcast by the WDR in 2004, followed by its Austrian theatrical premiere in 2005, a major German tour (Landgraf) in 2006 and 2007, and a Hebrew premiere in 2013 in Jerusalem. The London premiere of his fifth play (“PHALLACY”) with a science vs. art theme occurred in 2005 with a German radio version broadcast in early 2006 by the WDR; and New York and Porto (Portugal) premieres in 2007 and 2011 respectively.  His sixth play, “TABOOS” opened in London in 2006 and had its German language premiere in 2006 in Graz and its New York premiere in 2008, followed by Bulgarian tours in 2010 and 2011. Semi-staged readings of his recent docudrama, “FOUR JEWS ON PARNASSUS—a Conversation” (dealing with Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, and Schönberg) were held in 2006 in Berlin at the Walter Benjamin Festival and subsequently in Madison, WI, Stockholm, London, Cambridge, Vienna, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Bayreuth, Berlin,  London, and San Francisco. His play, FOREPLAY , dealing with Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor and Gretel Adorno, was published in book form in English, German, and Spanish in 2011, while his last play, INSUFFICIENCY appeared in 2012 in his book “Chemistry-in-Theatre” in English, German, and Spanish and premiered in London at the Riverside Studios Theatre.

 

He is also the founder of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and performing arts, and music. Over 2000 artists have passed through that program since its inception in 1982.

 

Djerassi lives in San Francisco, Vienna, and London. (There is a Web site about Carl Djerassi’s writing at http://www.djerassi.com)