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Carl Djerassi.

Lawley, Sue.
  • Audio

About this work


Carl Djerassi, when 28 years old, invented the Contaceptive Pill for which he received just $1. He later became a multimillionaire, and, now, aged 80, is a writer and playwright. Both his parents were doctors in Vienna and he always intended to be a doctor too. His father made a fortune from treating syphilitic patients, pre-antibiotics. Carl was very aware of anti-semitism, remembers the Anschluss clearly and came to USA just before the war. In the 1950s the scientific world was open to all kinds of new ideas - anything could be tried. The way the Pill was developed could not happen now. He was trying to make a synthetic compound to have the same biological properties as natural hormones, to be taken by mouth, to treat infertility - to help women maintain their pregancies, and he did not forsee the future for the Pill. The tragedy in his life was the suicide of his artist daughter, aged 28, who killed herself in the beautiful redwood forest near her home. Djerassi has set up an artists' colony, the Djerassi Foundation, so that artists can work in the company of their peers, rather than in isolation. He has also written books and plays, one of them discussing the ethical dilemma of totally separating sex from procreation - all test tube babies - and the ethics of freezing embryos.


London : BBC Radio 4, 2002.

Physical description

1 sound cassette (30 min.)


Copyright note

BBC Radio


Broadcast on 20th October 2002


  • English

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