In February 1999, students in the Department of English and
American Studies participated in a video conference with Carl Djerassi, professor of
chemistry at Stanford University and author of several highly acclaimed novels.
The videoconference was planned as a part of the graduate seminar "The Pill and
the Pen: Carl Djerassi's Science in Fiction," taught by Professor Walter Grünzweig,
in which students had spent the fall semester 1998/99 reading and discussing Djerassi´s
autobiography and fictional works.
Professor Djerassi, who is often referred to as the "father" of the birth
control pill, began a second career as a writer in the early 1990s, and has published a
collection of short stories, The Futurist, and a tetralogy of novels (Cantor´s Dilemma,
The Bourbaki Gambit, Menachem´s Seed and NO).
His most recent literary achievement is a play entitled An Immaculate Conception, which
was premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1998.
During the one-and-a-half hour conference, Professor Djerassi answered questions posed
by the students on a variety of topics: his roles as both scientist and writer, his
creation of the genre "Science in Fiction," the ethical questions raised by his
works, the attempt in the novels to address the increasing polarity between science and
the humanities, and the influence of feminism on his writing.
For many of the students, this was the first opportunity they had had to speak face to
face with an author whose works they had intensively studied, and the videoconference
provided them with a crucial and concrete view into the life and work of a writer.