Percy Julian Overcame Racism to Flourish as a Chemist Mark as Favorite (3 Favorites)

LESSON PLAN in Pharmaceuticals, Molecular Structure , ACS National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program. Last updated January 03, 2023.


In this lesson, students will learn about synthesizing new chemicals through reading about Percy Julian’s experience. There are a series of activities to help promote literacy in the science classroom related to the reading. This lesson could be easily used as plans for a substitute teacher, as most of the activities are self-guided.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This lesson will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS2-6: Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Understand that compounds can be found naturally or synthesized in a lab.
  • Recognize that hormones are organic compounds.
  • Realize the importance of physical properties.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Molecular Structure
  • Physical Properties
  • History


Teacher Preparation: 10 minutes
Lesson: Approximate times for students to complete each activity in the lesson:

  • Anticipation Guide: 10 minutes
  • Reading: 20 minutes
  • Timeline: 5-10 minutes
  • Compounds Synthesized: 20 minutes
  • Education & Career: 20 minutes
  • Summary: 1 to 3 hours (depending on choices made)


  • Reading document and any lessons that accompany it that you want to include.


  • No specific safety precautions need to be observed for this activity

Teacher Notes


Lesson Overview:

  • The lesson includes multiple components as outlined individually below. The Reading is essential for all of the activities. Teachers can choose to do one or all of the included activities. Student handouts and corresponding answer keys are provided for each item described below:
  • Activity: Anticipation Guide
    • Students identify whether they agree or disagree with the ten statements. After they complete the reading, they can adjust their answers and rephrase “disagree” statements so they read true.
  • Activity: Timeline
    • Students analyze a number of events related to Percy Julian’s discoveries and career, organizing them into correct chronological order (students should do this before reading, then reorganize the timeline if necessary, based on the information learned in the reading).
    • The teacher could cut each event into a strip to allow students to physically rearrange the events while they work through the activity.
  • Reading: Percy Julian Overcame Racism to Flourish as a Chemist
  • Activity: Compounds Synthesized
    • Identify the various compounds Julian had a hand in synthesizing. Identify similarities and differences between the compounds in a multi-step reaction.
  • Activity: Education & Career
    • Identify where and what Julian accomplished in his life. Write about the setbacks he experienced throughout his life that he overcame.
  • Activity: Summary
    • Create an interesting summary of Julian’s discoveries and setbacks.