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My daughter's suicide


My daughter Pamela
Carl Djerassi Scientist
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And that brings me to the other woman. My daughter who... my older child. She was three years older than my... my son. She was born in 1950 and, April, and she went to Stanford University last... She was an artist. She first went to the Art... Art Institute in San Francisco and then the last two years majored art in Stanford, and there met her husband and married after graduation. As he went to medical school at the University of California, San Diego and they lived then for four years while he went to medical school. By that time... I know I’m jumping but it’s an important jump... I had acquired a very large ranch in the... very close to where we lived... half an hour. And decided to put half of it in the names of my two children... undivided. So there was a 1200-acre ranch of which 600 belonged to my children undivided and 600 to me and my wife. And my son when he was 21 decided to build himself a house there, which I thought was madness. I said, how could you know what you’d want to do and so on? And he decided the way he could do it because I’d established this small trust fund for each child when they were, I don’t know, five years old. Maybe he was five, my daughter eight or something like that. And I still remember it was $15,000 of Syntex stock and that grew explosively. So by the time they were grown up their trust... from the age of 21 they got it... that was a lot of money and he decided to use some of that to build his house there and that became his home to this day. So in the end it turned out to be a very good decision. The strange thing is... so he was three years younger... already built a house when he was 21 or 22 and he’s a filmmaker, and he’s ever since used that as his headquarters.

My daughter who then went away to San Diego and so on, then decided to do exactly this, and her husband decided to do his internship and so on at Stanford in the hospital. That’s only half an hour away and she decided to build a house on the ranch there. So there she had a house eventually. My son had his house and I had built a small house there. I said 'I' even though it was still 'we'. My wife and I were still married although it’s clear that she didn’t care very much for it. But went along with a sort of [unclear] and a few years later I got divorced from her in this very bitter divorce where, of course, in... in California it’s all community property and everything gets divided up in half. And so the question was about real estate. Well, she wanted me to move out of the house in which we lived, which was a very nice one and I said, I’m not prepared to move out until the divorce settlement is finished. I’m not going to go and live in some temporary places. So that put pressure on her to really agree on that settlement at least quickly. And we simply traded and I took out the ranch property and she did the... where we lived... where she still lives to this day. Much closer and suburban. A very nice home. And so I moved then immediately into that small, very exquisite but small, sort of vacation weekend house. I mean it’s not small by ordinary standards but for us it was, and so suddenly I lived on the same property as my son and daughter. And so it was really... you might say the same compound because the distances are so large and it is so... It was mountainous and valleys and forest and open land and so on. By foot it took about an hour for me to walk from my house to my son’s, and roughly 40 minutes from my son’s to my daughter's... sort of a triangle so... and there were hills in between. So, it’s not that we lived next to each other, but yet we felt that we all lived together in a place having complete privacy yet also togetherness. And I became unbelievably close to my daughter at that time, you know, in part for obvious reasons because I... Not that I meant she took the place of my wife because that marriage had gone to pot quite some while earlier, but she was the only person to whom I could confide everything and it was a very wonderful relationship for two years.

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: Pamela Djerassi, Dale Djerassi

Duration: 5 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008