By Linda Raber
An ACS Presidential Session was held yesterday afternoon to honor the contributions to chemistry, art, and the humanities of Carl Djerassi, professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford University. Djerassi is perhaps best known as the "father of the birth control pill." He is also a novelist, playwright, and art collector.
The day started well enough with an excellent symposium that featured talks by former students and colleagues, as well as presentations by a scholar of feminism (also at Stanford) and a scholar from Germany who discussed Djerassi's particular genre: "science in fiction." According to literature available at the symposium, the science in fiction genre is distinct from science fiction. Science in fiction "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."
The afternoon ended with Djerassi and a small cast of actors from the American Conservatory Theater reading excerpts of Djerassi's newest play, "Phallacy." The play has been produced in London and is scheduled for a stint in New York next year. More information on the play, including a plot summary, is available on Djerassi's website: djerassi.com.
Taste is individual. I found the visual images and some of the dialogue less respectful of the audience than I would have liked to see at an ACS meeting. I’m not going to describe the images, but the Nature blog has done so (see blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/). Like the Nature blogger, I’m not going to review the play. I will say, though, I admire Djerassi's dedication to his work. A lot of us tell ourselves we have novels, poems, or plays inside us, but we just don’t have the time or energy to write them. Djerassi does. You have to give him a lot of credit for that.