USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

— At age 25,  he co-discovered the synthetic compound norethindrone, which formed the chemical basis of the first oral contraceptive, or birth control pill.

–The Pill is often called one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, and for his achievements, Luis’s honors include being recognized by the Institution of Chemical Engineers  as “one of the chemical engineers who changed the world.”

Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas was just a 25-year-old undergraduate chemistry student when he began at Syntex Corporation, a fledgling biochemical company in Mexico City, where he joined the research team of senior chemists Carl Djerassi of Austria, and Hungarian-born George Rosenkranz. Luis would make science history with them in 1951 by playing a key role in the synthesis of the compound norethindrone, one of the most potent oral progestins ever made. A decade later, norethindrone would become the key component for birth control pills. When the pill hits the market in 1960, the social, medical and cultural impacts are enormous — and are still being felt. Luis died in 2004 in Mexico City at age 79.

To read the full biography of Luis Cardenas and other role models in science and engineering, click here.


  1. #1 joe arrigo
    December 16, 2012

    Many great achievements reached by individuals remain anonymous and unsung to most of us, despite the fact they dramatically enhance the lives of millions. Cardenas is one of them.

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