A Whole Brain Exemplar

Carl Djerassi was born in Austria in 1923 to a mother and father who were both medical professionals. With the rise of Nazism, Carl relocated to Bulgaria. While in Bulgaria, Carl learned English so that he and his mother could move to the United States.

Carl earned a Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin. While in graduate school, Carl earned his first patent on a drug that became one of the first antihistamines. After receiving a Ph.D., Carl was the associate director of Syntex in Mexico City. While at Syntex, he developed what was the first birth control pill.

With the money Carl made from the birth control pill, he bought a cattle ranch in California and started accumulating artwork. He had the largest private collection of Paul Klee.

Carl eventually moved to an academic career and published over 1,200 papers. He created his own company to produce environmentally friendly pest control. Another effort led to one of the first uses of artificial intelligence in medicine.

Carl’s contributions extended beyond science, as he was also an accomplished novelist and playwright. His novels focused on the ethics of scientific research. His plays were performed in America and in other countries. Many of his plays featured women in strong roles with feminist themes.

Carl died at the age of 91, leaving a legacy of scientific breakthroughs as well as literary and dramatic works. He is rare for his contributions in what many consider right and left-brain activities. Few hidden heroes have made such a contribution of creative works.

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            “When a person has access to both the intuitive, creative and visual right brain, and the analytical, logical, verbal left brain, then the whole brain is working…And this tool is best suited to the reality of what life is, because life is not just logical-it is also emotional.” – Stephen Covey

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