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07-02_smith_1A two-hour documentary produced and directed by alumnus Llewellyn Smith about the life and work of chemist and civil rights champion, Percy Julian, aired on Tuesday, February 6, on PBS.

Percy Julian—one of the great African American scientists of the 20th century and grandson of Alabama slaves—won worldwide acclaim for his work in organic chemistry and broke the color barrier in American science more than a decade before Jackie Robinson did so in baseball. A brilliant chemist, Julian discovered a way to turn soybeans into synthetic steroids on an industrial scale. His innovative approach to chemistry helped to make drugs like cortisone widely available.

In Forgotten Genius, NOVA brings to life Julian’s scientific breakthroughs and gripping biography, with vivid period reenactments based on newly accessible family archives and interviews with dozens of colleagues and relatives.

“NOVA has been on the air for over 30 years and has never had a program on a black scientist or on chemistry,” says Llewellyn Smith. “Now they have both.”

Forgotten Genius is available on DVD and VHS wherever videos are sold.