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Meeting my first wife after 25 years


What do you talk about with a first wife whom you haven’t seen for 25 years?
Carl Djerassi Scientist
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What is ironic is that my first wife while she was still in Mexico, having gotten divorced and was still there, had a relationship with a Mexican man whom I never met to this day, and I think she fell in love with him and got pregnant, did the whole thing all over again. So she was... there again got pregnant in an affair with a man while she was still in Mexico before she decided to move back, and then as a result of it, married him. And also had eventually two children and to my knowledge stayed married with him, and they moved eventually back to Ohio where she came from. So he moved from Mexico, where he had lived, to Ohio, and I do not know what his occupation was and he is, I think, probably still alive because my second wife, who is now in her late eighties... my first wife, is still alive since I heard from her literally this year.

But while we’re talking about wives, she saw me on TV some 25 years later and so... or maybe she heard me first on the radio, and she said, 'I immediately recognised this voice,' and wrote to me. In California it was very easy to find out... I was then a Professor at Stanford, maybe I was even identified in that broadcast, but she could have looked it up. Anyway... and said, 'I’m coming to California on some trip. I’d like to see you.' Well that was... of course, it was a surprise. You can’t say, no, I don’t want to see you. Besides, I wasn’t married any more. So it had nothing to do with that. But it was a hesitation of opening a book which really has been closed for such a long time that you just don’t... you don’t want to open it and you wonder what... what you do when you do that. Remember, personally I hadn’t seen her for 25 years so my image of her was still a woman in her late 20s/early 30s and, you know, by now it’s a woman that’s in her late 50s, or something like that. And I wanted to have a neutral chaperone present to be absolutely sure that... by that time I was divorced from my second wife. I was a bachelor living in my ranch house. I was living both alone and not alone, in that I did have relationships with other women, because I was between marriages for some eight years or so, but at that time I had an extremely important relationship with a woman that I really thought was the great love of my life and so I asked her to be present when my first wife appeared, just so that it could be completely neutral and, of course, that woman, about whom I will talk some more... the chaperone that I brought along was curious to meet, of course, my first wife and it was all very civilized.

Now, what do you talk about with a first wife whom you haven’t seen for 25 years? And where I had already committed enormous faux pas that she was unaware of, but which I described in this autobiography, and I will mention again because it is psychologically significant.

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: Stanford University, Virginia Jeremiah

Duration: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008