In February, NOVA aired a program about Percy Julian
, which you can now watch online. Julian was a chemist who invented synthesis processes for a number of medically important compounds (e.g., cortisone). He also developed processes for economically synthesizing various human hormones from vegetable sources, like Mexican yam and soybeans.
Julian's discoveries were crucial in synthesizing affordable birth control medications and treatments for arthritis. He also blazed a path into academia and the physical sciences for African Americans.
If you're looking for a good story, go watch the NOVA program.