Russell Earl Marker

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Russell Earl Marker (March 12, 1902 – March 3, 1995) was an American chemist who invented the octane rating system when he was working at the Ethyl Corporation.[1][2] Later in his career, he went on to found a steroid industry in Mexico when he successfully made semisynthetic progesterone from chemical constituents found in Mexican yams in a process known as Marker degradation.[1][3] This eventually led to the development at Syntex of the combined oral contraceptive pill and synthetic cortisone - and to the development of the Mexican barbasco trade.


He was born on March 12, 1902 in Hagerstown, Maryland. He received his B.S. in 1923 from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in physical chemistry in 1924 from the same institution.[1]

In 1926, he married Mildred Collins (1899–1985) and worked as an analytical chemist at the Naval Powder Factory in Indian Head, Maryland. He then began work at the Ethyl Corporation where he came up with the concept of the octane rating.[1]

In March 1944 he formed Syntex.[4] He left the company in May 1945 to found Botanica-Mex. In 1949 he left Botanica-Mex. He died on Friday, March 3,[5] 1995.[1][4]


  • Mexican Chemical Society at the VI International Symposium on the Chemistry of Natural Products in Mexico City (1969)
  • Chemical Congress of North America (1975)
  • Lecture series in astronomy, astrophysics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, genetics, math, and physical sciences are held annually at Penn State in Russell Marker's honor.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Marker Degradation: Creation of the Mexican Steroid Hormone Industry". American Chemical Society. Retrieved June 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ Lehmann P, Bolivar A, Quintero R (1973). "Russell E. Marker - Pioneer of the Mexican steroid industry". Journal of Chemical Education (ACS) 50 (3): 195–9. Bibcode:1973JChEd..50..195L. doi:10.1021/ed050p195. PMID 4569922. 
  3. ^ Loriaux, D Lynn (2008). "Russell Earl Marker (1902–1995)". The Endocrinologist 18 (3): 107. doi:10.1097/TEN.0b013e31817d4077. 
  4. ^ a b "Russell Earl Marker". Chemical Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2011-11-17. 
  5. ^ The New York Times OBITUARIES, Thursday, March 9, 1995