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Pamela Blackmon

physicist, inventor, and educator, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the eldest of two sons of Arletta (Dixon) Alcorn and George Alcorn, an auto mechanic. Little is known of his early life. George Alcorn Jr. earned a BA in Physics in 1962 from Occidental College in Pasadena, California, where he excelled both academically and athletically, earning eight letters in football and baseball. His educational pursuits took him next to Howard University, where he received a master's degree in Nuclear Physics after only nine months of study. During the summers of 1962 and 1963 Alcorn worked as a research engineer at the space division of North American Rockwell, where he computed trajectories and orbital mechanics for missiles, including the Titan I and II, the Saturn IV, and the Nova.

From 1965 to 1967 Alcorn researched negative ion formation with funded support from the National Aeronautics and Space ...

Article

Philip Alexander

physicist, educator, and academic administrator, was born in Pocahontas, Virginia, the son of Harry P. Branson, a coal miner, and Gertrude Brown. In 1928, after several years at his local elementary school, Herman enrolled at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's preeminent black secondary schools. He was encouraged in this move by a young black physician, William Henry Welch, who practiced in Pocahontas and who rented lodgings from young Branson's grandmother.

At Dunbar, Branson was introduced to studies in Latin, advanced mathematics, and other disciplines to which he would not have been exposed in his local high school. After graduating as valedictorian in 1932 he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh with a view to studying medicine partly because his great uncle had been trained as a physician there Branson completed the premedical program in two years and still found time ...

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Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist, was born in Evergreen, Alabama. His father, Nelson Henry, and his mother, Mattye McDaniel Henry, were public school teachers who had graduated from Tuskegee Institute. Education was deeply valued in the Henry household, and Warren's parents brought him along to the classroom and encouraged him to study long hours during his adolescent and teenage years. He became interested in science early in life, though he did not have the opportunity to take any science courses until his senior year, when he transferred to Alabama State Normal, a school in Montgomery that concentrated on preparing future elementary school teachers. Following in his parents' footsteps, Henry worked his way through Tuskegee Institute as a night watchman and at a pharmacy, receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1931 majoring in mathematics English and French He also completed course work in chemistry and physics and worked summers on ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

physicist, was born in Woodville, Texas, the oldest son of John Alexander Hunter and Mary Evelyn Virginia (Edwards) Hunter His father a former school principal had moved to Texas from Louisiana soon after his marriage to Edwards who had been one of his students His mother was a teacher home demonstration agent and administrator The young family only stayed in Woodville for about a year before moving again first to La Porte and later to Jennings Island Texas where Hunter s father secured a ninety nine year lease on a property and began developing a ranch Hunter s father taught Hunter and his brother at home for the first five grades Once he was officially enrolled in classes at La Porte Texas Hunter had to cross two and a half miles of open water to reach the classroom He completed his secondary education at Prairie View State Normal ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

physicist, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and educator was born in Washington, D.C., the second of four children to George Jackson, a post office employee, and Beatrice Cosby, a social worker. In elementary school Shirley was bused from the Jacksons' largely white neighborhood in northwest Washington to a black school across town. After the 1954Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling and several years of “white flight” transformed the area into a predominantly black neighborhood, she attended the local Roosevelt High School, where she participated in an accelerated program in math and science. Jackson took college-level classes in her senior year, after completing the high school curriculum early, and she graduated as valedictorian in 1964 As I was growing up she recalled I became fascinated with the notion that the physical world around me was a world of secrets and that science as ...

Article

Robert Fay

Shirley Jackson grew up in Washington, D.C., where her parents, Beatrice and George Jackson, encouraged her interest in science by helping her to prepare school science projects. After graduating first in her class at Roosevelt High School, Jackson was one of only thirty women to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1964. She earned a B.S. degree in 1968 and a Ph.D. in 1973 from MIT, making her the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics and the first black woman to earn a doctorate in any subject from MIT.

After graduating from MIT, Jackson joined the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, as a research associate (1973–1974, 1975–1976), and was a visiting scientist at the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland (1974–1975). From 1976 to 1991 Jackson researched theoretical physics ...

Article

Sowande' Mustakeem

At the young age of twenty-six, Shirley Ann Jackson became not only the first African American woman to receive a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but also one of the first two women to receive a degree in theoretical physics from any university in the United States. In 1995, Jackson became both the first African American and first woman appointed to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear power plants in the United States. Additionally, in 1999, Jackson became the first African American president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, the oldest university in the United States dedicated to research in science and engineering.

The second daughter of George and Beatrice Jackson, Jackson was born in Washington, DC She benefited greatly from the strong foundation her parents provided Her mother Beatrice a social worker regularly read to her often choosing the ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

American physicist and president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Shirley Ann Jackson was born in Washington, D.C., to Beatrice and George Jackson, who instilled in her, as well as in her sister, Alicia, a strong interest in school, especially the study of science. Her parents encouraged Jackson to think for herself from an early age. As a result, she excelled academically throughout elementary and middle school and at Roosevelt High School, where she participated in accelerated math and science programs and from which she graduated in 1964 as valedictorian. She moved on that fall to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she was one of the few African American students and the only one pursuing a career in theoretical physics. She graduated in 1968 after completing her senior thesis on solid state physics and was accepted into many of the nation s most prestigious graduate programs ...

Article

Pamela C. Edwards

physicist, space scientist, and mathematician, was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Johnson started attending the local elementary school, but in the 1920s and 1930s, the public school system in White Sulphur Springs did not provide educational opportunities for black children beyond the eighth grade. In a 1997 interview with the Richmond Post-Dispatch, Johnson recalled that her parents were determined to give their children every educational opportunity and moved to Institute, West Virginia—120 miles away—in September of every year so that Johnson and her siblings could attend school. Johnson attended West Virginia State College, where she earned a BS in French and Mathematics and explored her interests in physics. Graduating summa cum laude in 1937, she taught high school and elementary school in southwest Virginia before going to work for NASA.

In 1953 Johnson joined NASA s Langley Research Center in Hampton Virginia ...

Article

Crystal A. deGregory

physicist and university president, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Daniel LaMont and Daisy Harris Lawson. Lawson's father, a dean of Louisville's Simmons College, had attended Fisk University where he was a member of the world-renown Fisk Jubilee Singers. Although little is known of his early childhood and education, the younger Lawson followed in his father's footsteps, enrolling at Fisk in 1931. As a mathematics and physics major, Lawson sought the mentorship of Elmer S. Imes. A distinguished physicist, Imes had become the second African American to earn a doctorate in physics when he graduated from the University of Michigan in 1918. Imes had returned to teach at Fisk, his alma mater, in 1930, where he continued to pioneer infrared spectroscopy. Lawson proved a promising student, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1935 with a degree in physics the first ever Fisk student to ...

Article

Robert M. Dixon

physicist, science and engineering administrator, and college president, was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the first of two sons born to Almar C. Massey, a manual laborer for the Hercules Chemical Company, and Essie Nelson, an elementary school teacher and principal. Massey received support and encouragement not only from his parents but also from a cadre of excellent African American teachers, who, as a resolt of restricted employment opportunities in rigidly segregated Mississippi, pursued teaching with passion and dedication. Massey attended the Sixteenth Section Elementary School in Hattiesburg, where his mother taught, and the Royal Street High School in the same city. He excelled in school and entered Atlanta's Morehouse College on a Ford Foundation scholarship after completing the tenth grade. As a student at Morehouse, Massey, like Martin Luther King Jr. and other African American men who attended the college between 1940 and 1967 ...

Article

'Kale Oyedeji

mathematician, theoretical physicist, and university professor, was born in Petersburg, Virginia, the son of Joseph Percivall Mickens, a carpenter, and Daisy Brown Williamson, a house wife. His twin brothers Calvin and Carroll were born a year later on 13 February 1944. As a child, Mickens's interest in mathematics and science was sparked by his maternal grandfather who taught him to read and write, and discussed the nature of science. As a consequence, in high school, he enrolled in all of the available courses in these areas. After graduation from Peabody High School, in 1960, he entered Fisk University where in 1964 he completed a BA in Physics with a minor in mathematics. Mickens continued his education at Vanderbilt University and earned a doctoral degree in Theoretical Physics in August 1968. From 1968 to 1970 he continued his research in high energy ...

Article

Robert Fikes

chemist, physicist, and educator, was born in Arlington, Virginia, the son of Charles Wilson Morrison, an automobile mechanic and inventor, and Ethel Elizabeth Moten. Gifted with the same high intelligence, technical curiosity, and drive that led his father to patent fourteen devices, Harry earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry in 1955 and a doctorate in chemistry in 1960 at the Catholic University of America. His PhD dissertation was titled “Theoretical Investigation of the Excited States of Linear Triatomic Hydrogen.” Morrison's first job was as a research chemist for the National Institutes of Health, a post that he held from 1955 to 1956. From 1960 to 1961 he was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Standards, where he was introduced to theoretical statistical mechanics, the field in which he later achieved renown.

Morrison s civilian career was put on hold ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a pioneer in experimental laser physics, professor and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University, was born in his grandparents' house in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where he attended a three-room school at Hopson Plantation. His parents, both sharecroppers, married early, separated, and divorced. He was three years old when he last saw his father, who was later killed in a shootout with police in Chicago, at the age of twenty-six. Shaw's mother remarried in 1942.

Hopson Plantation, established in 1852, was a 3,500-acre operation, with four distinct “Places” where tenant farmers lived, each place having its own barns. Around 1935 just before Shaw was born the Hopson family began switching over from manual human labor and mules to a mechanized operation with tractors A crew of mechanical engineers from International Harvester in Chicago worked every fall at the Hopson Plantation perfecting the ...

Article

Robert Fikes

physicist and university administrator, was born in Houston, Texas, to Frank Thornton, a laborer, and Mary Jane Sullivan, a midwife. Thornton graduated from Houston Colored High School, which reached only the eleventh grade, and later attended Los Angeles Polytechnic High School to earn credits in language and mathematics to satisfy college entrance requirements. Rejected for military service in the Army Corps of Engineers because of his race, he enrolled in the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, Ohio, but again was forced to change his plans when he was denied access to the school's racially segregated army training program. Upon entering Howard University in 1918, his perfect test scores in mathematics and science enabled him to attain a position as a student teacher. Thornton graduated from Howard with a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Physics in 1922 and earned his master s degree in ...