a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


My father's death and a revelation


Meeting my father after 10 years
Carl Djerassi Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

So my father who, of course, wanted to see me again... we had had no contact for 10 years except for Red Cross letters because there was no communication between Bulgaria and the United States... who had not seen me since my 16th birthday came to the... to... went to Israel and almost immediately got drafted into the army in Israel. He had by that time been in the first two Bulgarian... the Balkan wars. The first and second one.  Then he was in the World War, then he was in the Second World War. Then thinking he would get out of wars ended up, of course, in... in the Israeli Arab [unclear] in the 1940s and was an officer in the... in the Israeli army. And then lots of Bulgarians, they all settled in Jaffa and Jaffa became Little Bulgaria or Little Sofia. And mostly Djerassi’s moved there as well, and one... my first cousin became a government official in Israel and like many of the immigrants at that time changed their name to a Hebrew name. So he changed Djerassi to Dvir. D-V-I-R.

And in my first, sort of, call it Jewish novel, Menachem’s Seed, which was my third science novel, which focused in part on the Pugwash movement, which I want to explain to general public and where I particular wrote about how Pugwash was a forum where scientists from countries could speak who diplomatically had no relation at all. This was, of course, the purpose of Pugwash, particularly the atomic bomb or nuclear bomb countries; Russia, England, France, and the United States. That was also the first place where the Israelis and PLO met without ever openly admitting it, and I was present at one of these first meetings and that strangely enough was in Austria at a Pugwash conference in the 1970s. And I sat in a room this size here. Maybe 15 people. A smoke-filled room. Everyone was smoking except for myself probably and it was a very bitter debate, but it was a debate. And what is even more striking in the evening quite separately you suddenly saw an Israeli and PLO guy sitting alone somewhere talking to each other, which, of course, was what Pugwash was all about. And I described that in fictionalist form in Menachem’s Seed... in that novel, which for me was a very important novel. So, I described that Israeli business at that time.

Well, my father was part and parcel of that and then he came to the United States, and lo and behold came to the United States exactly the year that I moved from the States to Mexico. So I barely just saw... said hello and goodbye to him. And he met me as a married man. You know, married to my first wife and later visited me in Mexico and already saw me with my second wife. I mean this is how the transition went on and yet my father... and eventually he practised medicine and he married again my stepmother who was a Bulgarian who he met in the States, and he was married to her for 30 years. And they moved to San Francisco. And I... so I saw a great deal of them at that point here.

Austrian-American Carl Djerassi (1923-2015) was best known for his work on the synthesis of the steroid cortisone and then of a progesterone derivative that was the basis of the first contraceptive pill. He wrote a number of books, plays and poems, in the process inventing a new genre, 'science-in-fiction', illustrated by the novel 'Cantor's Dilemma' which explores ethics in science.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Menachem’s Seed, Pugwash movement, Samuel Djerassi

Duration: 4 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008