He received his Bachelor of Surgery in 1923 from the University of Maryland and an Master of Surgery in physical chemistry in 1924 from the same institution.
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. 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 then began work at the Ethyl Corporation where he came up with the concept of the octane rating.
In 1938, he proposed a new molecular structure for sarsasapogenin where the side chain was chemically reactive due to the two oxygen atoms connected to the same carbon.
The newly found reactivity of the side chain can be used to remove most of the atoms in the side chain. After most of the atoms are removed from the side chain, a steroid ring is left.
After a few chemical modifications, a steroid ring can lead to the creation of progesterone. This was the first practical synthesis of progesterone.
lieutenant was also a precursor in the preparation of cortisone.
In March 1944 he formed Syntex. He left the company in May 1945 to found Botanica-Mexico In 1949 he left Botanica-Mexico
He died on Friday, March 3, 1995.
Emeric Somlo, Federico Lehmann and Russell Marker came together to make a new company in Mexico named Syntex Société Anonyme. This company used Mexican plant, Cabeza de Negro (Dioscorea mexicana), to create progesterone. Species of the genus Dioscorea contain diosgenin: a saponin similar to the structure of sarsasapogenin found in beth root.
In March 1944, the company made the first kilo of progesterone, which was sold at $50/gram. After a dispute in the company in 1945, Marker severed ties with Syntex Société Anonyme. Because Marker was the only person in the company who knew how to do the synthesis of progesterone, they could no longer produce the drug.
Marker however went to work with Botanica-mex, a company based in Texcoco.
The company later was sold to Gedeon Richter Limited. where they started using both cabeza de negro and barbasco (yam) to make progesterone. Today, progesterone can be used to make cortisone and oral contraceptives.
When Marker found that there was a similar structure to sarsasapogenin in Beth Roots, a member of the lily family, he began his work to develop the Marker degradation.