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Austria: Carl Djerassi

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This stamp is the first of its kind in the world: the face in the background is made up of microscopic chemical formulae for the steroid (art screen composed of enantiomers of the steroid).

The biochemist, biophysicist, writer and Professor Emeritus for Chemistry at Stanford University was born in Vienna, on 29.10.1923, the son of two Austrian-Bulgarian doctors. His Jewish origin forced him to emigrate to the USA in 1938. Today, Djerassi describes himself as an agnostic fundamentalist and world citizen, at home in London and San Francisco. In 1945 he graduated in organic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. In 1951, he synthesised the pregnancy hormone progestin, the substance that was later to enter history as the active ingredient in the first contraceptive pill. He was awarded the National Medal of Science (for the basis for the development of the contraceptive pill) and the National Medal of Technology (for the development of new methods in the field of insect prevention), as well as countless scientific awards and no fewer than 19 honorary doctorates.

Since the 1980s, Djerassi has mainly worked as an author, examining the human aspect of natural sciences and the personal conflicts that scientists face. His literary works in the genre he invented, "Science-in-Fiction", include short stories and novels, while the last few years have seen a focus on the stage with "Science-in-Theater" works. In 1982 he set up the "Djerassi Resident Artist Program" foundation in California, which awards working grants in the form of visits and studio space to artists in the fields of graphic art, literature, performing arts and music, from which over 1300 artists have already benefited. Djerassi is also an art-collector, and famous for his Paul Klee collection.

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