Issue Date: November 19, 2007
Percy Julian Film Honored
A film biography about the life and career of pioneering African American chemist Percy Lavon Julian (1899???1975) is among the winners of the 2007 AAAS Science Journalism Awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The film, produced by the WGBH television program NOVA and supported in part by the American Chemical Society, portrays Julian's struggles with racism and his breakthrough research on drugs to treat glaucoma and rheumatoid arthritis (C&EN, Oct. 2, 2006, page 52).
Although the film premiered nationally on PBS on Feb. 6, it continues to be shown in classrooms and other educational settings across the U.S.. "What these kinds of awards usually do is give the program a second-stage boost and lift it up again," says James P. Shoffner, who spearheaded ACS's support of the film project. "Some people who have not seen it or heard of it will all of a sudden want to see the film. It helps to keep it out there."
Shoffner, an adjunct professor of science at the Science Institute at Columbia College Chicago, says he hopes the film will receive more international exposure. "I think that AAAS will help that process because AAAS reaches all the sciences and encompasses a broader community," he says. "The film seems to be getting greater and larger recognition as more and more people hear about it and see it."
Llewellyn M. Smith, the film's coproducer, says he hopes the movie will inspire someone to write a biography about Julian. "There's a lot of material that we researched that didn't get into the film, and there's a lot more about his life that we don't know," Smith says. "There's still a hope that somebody's going to come and do an honest, thorough, definitive, scholarly biography of his life and his work. There's still a huge opportunity."
The awards are sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Winners will receive $3,000 and a plaque at the 2008 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston in February.
For more information about the film, visit NOVA's website at www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/julian.
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