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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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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 ...

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Paul Wermager

pharmacist, chemist, researcher, and instructor, was born in Seattle, Washington, one of four children of James P. Ball Jr., an attorney and photographer, and Laura Howard, a photographer and cosmetologist. Alice grew up in a remarkable family. Her grandfather, James Presley “J. P.” Ball Sr., a photographer, was one of the first blacks in the country to master the new art of the daguerreotype. His famous daguerreotype gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, displayed a well-publicized six-hundred-yard panorama of pictures and paintings depicting the horrors of slavery. Later he opened photography galleries in Minneapolis, in Helena, Montana, in Seattle, and in Honolulu. Alice Ball's father, in addition to being a photographer, also was a newspaper editor and lawyer and was credited with having a lasting effect on Montana history. The Balls lived in Montana for several years before moving to Seattle, and Ball's newspaper, the Colored ...

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Audra J. Wolfe

protozoologist and microscopist, was born in Palatka, Florida, the son of Lugenia Bryant and Eugene Finley. As a high school student at Central Academy in Palatka, Finley played trumpet for Al Osgood's Hot Five, a local jazz band.

In 1928 he completed a BS in Biology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, before moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to pursue graduate work in zoology under the direction of Lowell E. Noland. Although he would eventually return to Madison to finish his PhD, financial pressures forced Finley to leave the university with his master's in 1929. He married Eva Elizabeth Browning on 30 August that same year. They had two children, Harold Eugene and Eva Kathleen.

Finley's teaching career began in the biology department at West Virginia State College, where he served first as an instructor and later as associate professor. In 1938 he returned to ...

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Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

professor of physiology, research physiologist, and medical college administrator, was born Eleanor Lutia Ison, the elder of two daughters born in Dublin, Georgia, to Luther Lincoln Ison, a high school teacher, and Rose Mae Oliver Ison, a teacher and accomplished musician. She attended high schools in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and Quitman, Georgia, before moving with her family to Monroe, Georgia, in the 1940s. Franklin graduated from the Carver High School in 1944 as valedictorian of her class.

At the age of fifteen Franklin entered Spelman College, with the intent to become a doctor. However, under the guidance and tutelage of Dr. Helen T. Albro, chair of the Biology Department, and Dr. Barnett F. Smith professor of biology and Wisconsin graduate she chose to pursue postgraduate study in endocrinology and physiology at the University of Wisconsin Franklin who had played piano and oboe in ...

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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 ...

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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

Charles W. Jr. Carey

cell biologist and professor, was born in Halifax, North Carolina, to Maynard and Lillie Langford, farmers. As a young boy, he exhibited an intense curiosity about the plants and animals on his family's farm, a curiosity that eventually developed into the desire to become a biology teacher. In 1966 he received a BS in Biology from Fayetteville State University, a historically black college in North Carolina, and entered the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he received an MS in Zoology in 1969 and a PhD in Cell Biology in 1971. After two years of postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, he accepted a position on the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Six years later, he moved to Washington, D.C., to teach biology at Howard University College of Medicine; but he left in 1979 to become a professor of cell physiology at the University ...

Article

Katrina D. Thompson

chemist, social scientist, and writer, was born in Garfield Heights, Washington, D.C., the son of William Harrison Lewis and Mary (Over) Lewis, of whom little else is known. In 1899 there were only four academic public schools in the segregated Washington, D.C., area, and only one of these was open to African Americans. Lewis attended the noted Dunbar High School, then known as M Street School. Because African Americans with advanced degrees had few other opportunities, during the 1920s three Dunbar teachers held the PhD degree, which was certainly unusual and perhaps unique in American public secondary education.

After attending Dunbar, Lewis graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1925 While at Brown Lewis became the first undergraduate initiate of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of the first African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Two years after graduating ...

Article

Debra A. Varnado

scientist and first black professor and chemistry department head at the U.S. Naval Academy, was one of three sons born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to Samuel Proctor Massie and Earlee Jacko Massie. His twin brother died soon after birth. Massie was nurtured in an extended family of educators, devout churchgoers, and community and civic leaders. He learned from his father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preacher and biology teacher, to stand up for himself and to minister to others' needs. His maternal grandmother, Josephine Jacko, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, was born a slave. She instilled in him a sense of right and wrong and during long conversations helped him to recognize his gift for motivating and guiding others. His maternal grandfather, William B. Jacko also a schoolteacher and former superintendent of schools in Jefferson Steps Jefferson County served in the Arkansas State House of Representatives from ...

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Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

chemistry professor and research chemist, was born in Mexia, Texas, to William Cecil McBay, a drugstore and barbershop owner, and Roberta (Ransom) McBay a seamstress McBay s father also taught himself anatomy became an embalmer s apprentice and later established a mortuary business with his older brother The parents example of hard work as a prerequisite for success set a high standard for McBay his brother and two sisters all four of whom attended college and earned postgraduate degrees Just prior to the 1920s as the nation recovered from the social and economic trauma of World War I Mexia Texas experienced a temporary economic boom that had a significant impact on McBay s early academic opportunities Oil was discovered in that middle Texas community primarily on farmland owned by African Americans Although McBay s immediate family did not own oil laden property McBay and his siblings benefited ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

educator and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Lewis Bradner McKinney, an employee of the U.S. Printing Office, and Blanche Elaine Hunt. McKinney attended Dunbar High School, the all-black grammar school on M Street in Washington. Dunbar's faculty, composed of highly motivated African American scholars, inspired generations of black youth to strive for academic excellence. McKinney himself recalled the atmosphere of “hopeful purpose and tremendous encouragement” that pervaded the school.

After graduating in 1917, McKinney enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike many other white colleges at the time, Bates admitted African American students. Some of McKinney's Dunbar teachers were Bates graduates; Benjamin E. Mays later the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta was a year ahead of McKinney at Bates and other blacks were to follow Nevertheless McKinney found race to be an issue in at least one Bates program ...

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Kenneth R. Manning

McKinney, Roscoe Lewis (08 February 1900–30 September 1978), educator and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Lewis Bradner McKinney, an employee of the U.S. Printing Office, and Blanche Elaine Hunt. McKinney attended Dunbar High School, the all-black grammar school on M Street in Washington. Dunbar’s faculty, comprised of highly motivated African-American scholars, inspired generations of black youth to strive for academic excellence. McKinney himself recalled the atmosphere of “hopeful purpose and tremendous encouragement” that pervaded the school.

After graduating in 1917 McKinney enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike many other white colleges at the time, Bates admitted African-American students. Some of McKinney’s Dunbar teachers were Bates graduates; Benjamin E. Mays later president of Morehouse College in Atlanta was a year ahead of McKinney and other blacks were to follow Nevertheless McKinney found race to be an issue in at least one ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

microbiologist, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the youngest of William E. and Margaret Moore's three children. Moore's father worked as an electrician for a local manufacturing firm; all five members of the Moore family were listed as “mulattos” in the 1910 census. Ruth Moore completed her entire education within Columbus, enrolling at Ohio State University for her BS (1926), MA (1927), and PhD (1933); the latter two degrees were awarded in the field of microbiology. She taught both hygiene and English at Tennessee State College, a historically black college, to support herself during graduate school (1927–1930).

Moore was not only the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Microbiology but she was also the first African American woman to receive a PhD in the Natural Sciences. Her dissertation focused on the bacteriology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis the organism that ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

Charles Henry Turner was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Thomas Turner, a church custodian, and Adeline Campbell, a nurse. Although neither parent had attended college, Thomas Turner would eventually earn a reputation as “a well-read man, a keen thinker, and a master of debate [who] surrounded himself with several hundred choice books.” Both parents, but especially the father, imparted a love of learning to young Charles. After graduating valedictorian of his high school class in Cincinnati, he proceeded to the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a B.S. in 1891 and an M.S. in 1892. His goal was to teach science and ultimately to head a technological or agricultural school for African Americans. As an undergraduate he came under the influence of Clarence Luther Herrick, a professor of biology at Cincinnati and pioneer in the field of psychobiology. When Herrick established the Journal ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

biologist and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Thomas Turner, a church custodian, and Adeline Campbell, a nurse. Although neither parent had attended college, Thomas Turner would eventually earn a reputation as “a well-read man, a keen thinker, and a master of debate [who] surrounded himself with several hundred choice books.” Both parents, but especially the father, imparted a love of learning to young Charles. After graduating valedictorian of his high school class in Cincinnati, he proceeded to the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a BS in 1891 and an MS in 1892. His goal was to teach science and ultimately to head a technological or agricultural school for African Americans. As an undergraduate he came under the influence of Clarence Luther Herrick, a professor of biology at Cincinnati and pioneer in the field of psychobiology. When Herrick established the Journal ...