Djerassi Resident Artists Program



Program History

Pamela Djerassi

Dr. Carl Djerassi

Diane Middlebrook

Norma Djerassi


Dr. Carl Djerassi

1923 - 2015

  Photo by Abe Aronow

Carl Djerassi, author, playwright, and emeritus professor of chemistry at Stanford University, currently lives in San Francisco, London, and Vienna. He is one of the few American scientists to have been awarded both the National Medal of Science (for the first synthesis of a steroid oral contraceptive--“the Pill”) and the National Medal of Technology (for promoting new approaches to insect control). A member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as many foreign academies, Djerassi has received 32 honorary doctorates together with numerous other honors, such as the first Wolf Prize in Chemistry, the first Award for the Industrial Application of Science from the National Academy of Sciences, the Erasmus Medal of the Academia Europeae, the Perkin Medal of the Society for Chemical Industry, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists, and the American Chemical Society’s highest award, the Priestley Medal. An Austrian postage stamp with his image was issued in 2005.

For the past 20 years, he has turned to fiction writing, mostly in the genre of “science-in-fiction,” whereby he illustrates, in the guise of realistic fiction, the human side of scientists and the personal conflicts faced by scientists in their quest for scientific knowledge, personal recognition, and financial rewards. In addition to 5 novels (“Cantor’s Dilemma;” “The Bourbaki Gambit;” “Marx, deceased;” “Menachem’s Seed;” “NO”), poetry (“The Clock runs backwards”), autobiography (“The Pill, Pygmy Chimps, and Degas’ Horse”) and memoir (“This Man’s Pill”), he embarked in 1997 on a trilogy of “science-in-theatre” plays. “AN IMMACULATE MISCONCEPTION”—first performed at the 1998 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and subsequently all over the world—has been translated into 12 languages and broadcast in 2000 by BBC Radio on its World Service as “Play of the Week,” in 2001 by the West German and Swedish Radio, in 2004 by NPR (USA), and in 2006 by Radio Prague. “OXYGEN” (co-authored with Roald Hoffmann) premiered in April 2001 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre and has since been translated into 16 languages as well as broadcast by the BBC World Service. “CALCULUS,” translated into 5 languages has also been converted into a chamber opera version (music by Werner Schulze), which premiered in May 2005 in the Zurich Opera (Studiobühne).

Among his “non-scientific” plays, “EGO,” premiered at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and under the title “THREE ON A COUCH” in London (2004) and New York City (2008) as well as touring all over Germany. His fifth play (“PHALLACY”) with a science vs. art theme premiered in London in 2005 and New York City in 2007, while “TABOOS,” concerned with the social consequences of assisted reproduction, opened in London (2006) followed by its German language premiere in Austria and a New York City run  in 2008. His most recent book, “FOUR JEWS ON PARNASSUS—a Conversation” (dealing with Benjamin, Adorno, Scholem, and Schönberg) has received numerous staged readings of excerpts in docudrama form with accompanying music starting in 2006 in Berlin at the Walter Benjamin Festival and subsequently in Madison, WI, Stockholm, London, Cambridge, Vienna, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Bayreuth, Berlin, and London. Some of the characters from this book have since become the main figures in his latest (2011) play, entitled FOREPLAY.

In 1979, Dr. Djerassi founded the Djerassi Resident Artists Program near Woodside, California, which provides residencies and studio space for artists in the visual arts, literature, choreography and music composition. The Program was founded in honor of his daughter Pamela Djerassi, who took her own life in 1978. Since its inception, the Program has served over 2,000 artists from all over the world. Complete Program History   

For more information about Dr. Carl Djerassi, go to  

Djerassi Resident Artists Program
2325 Bear Gulch Road  
Woodside, CA 94062

650 747-1250