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Article

Theodore Cohen

was born on 20 January 1908 in Tlacotalpan, Veracruz, to Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, a medical doctor, and Pilar Beltrán Luchirí, the descendant of Ignacio María Luchichí, a well-known writer in the surrounding Papaloapan basin of southern Mexico. Though born into an elite family with no African ancestry, Aguirre Beltrán had a major impact on how we understand the African heritage of Mexico. In addition, he was interested in social issues, had an affinity for anarchism, and read scholars such as Georg Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City to continue his preparatory studies, and in 1927 he enrolled in medical school at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico). Having finished his thesis, “El metabolism basal en lasnefrosis” (Elemental Metabolism in Nephrosis), he graduated in 1931. He married Judith Avendaño, and they had five children.

After finishing medical school Aguirre ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

psychologist and expert in consumer behavior and marketing, was born in White Stone, Virginia. It is very likely, but not completely documented, that he was the son of James A. Bayton, a steamboat fireman, and his wife, Clara Bayton. Before 1920 he was sent to live in Philadelphia with his uncles George Bayton, a physician, and Wentworth Bayton, a hotel waiter, while his widowed mother worked as a live-in cook for a family in the District of Columbia (1910, 1920, 1930 censuses). There is no further record of his older sisters, Lucile and Rita. Many sources have assumed that the physician George Bayton, certainly the most important adult male in his childhood years, was James Bayton's father.

Graduating in 1931 from Temple University High School in Philadelphia Bayton enrolled at Howard University in Washington DC where he initially majored in chemistry with an eye ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

pioneer in discrediting the racist concepts that characterized early twentieth-century anthropology and other social sciences. Franz Boas was born in Minden, Germany. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Kiel in 1881, but he soon shifted interest into the field of human geography. In 1883 he conducted his first fieldwork, among the Inuit people of Baffin Island. In 1887 he began research among the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. In 1899 he became the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University. When Boas began his anthropological work, anthropology was far from being a scientific field. It was infested with racist practitioners and amateurs. Boas held that too often people developed theories and then sought to gather information to prove their theories.

Article

Daniel Richter

who made seminal contributions to Brazilian national thought primarily through posthumous publications, was born in 1864 in the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro, and was abandoned by his mother shortly after birth. Castro’s best-known writings addressed issues of race, gender, and education during the transition from monarchy to republic in the 1880s.

Castro’s mother was likely a slave, and she may have sought to attain her son’s freedom by abandoning him. Leaving behind young children was a rare practice among slaves in Brazil prior to the Law of the Free Womb, passed in 1871 The foundling Castro was taken in and raised by Manoel da Costa Paes a Portuguese businessman and Rio resident Paes arranged for Castro s formal education which included a scholarship for poor students at Rio s elite secondary school Colégio Pedro II After the completion of his secondary studies Castro enrolled at the Faculdade ...

Article

Robert Fay

William Montague Cobb was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Elmer and Alexzine Montague Cobb. After earning an A.B. degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts in 1925, Cobb entered Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1929. He then earned a Ph.D. degree in anatomy and physical anthropology from Western Reserve University in Ohio in 1932. Cobb taught at Howard University from 1932 to 1973, chairing the Department of Anatomy from 1947 to 1969. In 1969 he was awarded Howard's first distinguished professorship.

Cobb was an authority on physical anthropology and published over 600 related articles in professional journals. He contributed to E. V. Cowdry's Problems of Aging: Biological and Medical Aspects, Gray's Anatomy, Henry's Anatomy, and Cunningham's Manual of Practical Anatomy Cobb also dispelled myths about African American biological inferiority in the ...

Article

Paul A. Erickson

physical anthropologist and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of William Elmer Cobb, a printer, and Alexzine Montague. Experiencing racial segregation in education, he graduated in 1921 from Dunbar High School, an elite college-preparatory school for African Americans. Cobb attended Amherst College, where he pursued a classical education in arts and sciences, graduating in 1925. After graduation he received a Blodgett Scholarship to study biology at Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory in Massachusetts. There he met the Howard University biologist Ernest Everett Just and decided to attend Howard University's College of Medicine. At the time, Howard was undergoing a transformation as-its first African American president, Mordecai Johnson, attempted to place the university under greater African American control. Showing great academic promise, Cobb was groomed to become a new member of the faculty. After receiving his medical degree in 1929 he was sent to ...

Article

Jennifer L. Freeman Marshall

anthropologist, educator, sociologist, was born Ellen Irene Diggs in Monmouth, Illinois, to Henry Charles Diggs and Alice Scott. Her working-class parents lived in a community of about ten thousand, about two hundred of whom were black. They supported their precocious child, one of five, who read voraciously and achieved the highest grade average in her school. Recognizing her ability, the Monmouth Chamber of Commerce awarded her a scholarship to attend Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois. In 1924 she transferred to the University of Minnesota, which offered a far larger number of courses, where she majored in sociology and minored in psychology. She received an AB degree in 1928 and then attended Atlanta University, a premier institution for the education of African Americans founded in 1865 and located in Atlanta, Georgia. The institution began to offer graduate degrees in 1929 and in 1933 under the direction ...

Article

Molefi Kete Asante

major Senegalese scholar in the fields of anthropology, history, and physics, was born in the village of Keitou, Senegal, not far from the town of Diourbel in the interior of Senegal on 29 December 1923 By all accounts as a youth he was a serious student and an avid participant in the sports of the village Yet he was always searching to reach higher goals and when the opportunity came for him to study in Dakar and St Louis he quickly took the chance to prove himself He was an extraordinary student noticed by all of his classmates and teachers as someone who could make an enormous contribution to knowledge At an early age Diop had shown a keen mind an argumentative streak and an ability to make logical arguments Diop like most Senegalese children had to learn Islamic traditions as well as Western ones His ancestors and larger ...

Article

David Alan Rego

was born in Glasgow, Scotland, at St. Mary’s Hospital for Women, the same institution where his Jamaican-born mother was pursuing studies as a nurse-midwife. Upon completion of her studies in 1967, Carmen Fenton returned to Jamaica with her young son Kevin, reuniting with her husband, Sydney, a high school chemistry teacher and later principal at Kingston’s Excelsior High School. Kevin’s siblings are Peter, a physician; Kim, a mathematics lecturer; and Keisha, a business-woman.

Kevin Fenton attended high school at Wolmer’s Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica. After graduating from Wolmer’s, he enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a computer science major, only to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine in 1985. He was elected class president in 1985 and 1986, and in 1987 he was elected vice president of the UWI Medical Student’s Association. Following graduation with honors from medical school in 1990 ...

Article

David Rego

physician, epidemiologist, and public health official in the United States and the United Kingdom, was born in Glasgow, Scotland at St. Mary's Hospital for Women, the same institution where his Jamaican-born mother was pursuing studies as a nurse-midwife. Upon completion of her studies in 1967, Carmen Fenton returned to Jamaica with her young son, Kevin, reuniting with her husband, Sydney, a high school chemistry teacher and later principal at Kingston's Excelsior High School. Kevin is the oldest of four children. His siblings are Peter, a physician; Kim, a mathematics lecturer; and Keisha, a businesswoman.

Kevin Fenton attended high school at Wolmer's Boys School in Kingston, Jamaica. After graduation from Wolmer's, he enrolled at the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a computer science major, only to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine in 1985. He was elected class president in 1985 and 1986 and ...

Article

Bahru Zewde

Ethiopian intellectual and reformer, was born in Adwa (northern Ethiopia) on 30 July 1886 Some three years later he lost his father at the battle Metemma between Ethiopia and Mahdist Sudan that claimed the life of Emperor Yohannes IV That fateful event created a political vacuum in northern Ethiopia into which the Italians who were hovering around the port of Massawa stepped with alacrity At the same time the emperor s core province Tegray fell into disarray At the tender age of seven Gebre Heywet joined the exodus of Tegrayans into the adjoining and relatively peaceful Italian colony of Eritrea He spent some years at the Swedish Mission in Menkullu on the mainland off the port of Massawa It was while visiting Massawa that he boarded one of the ships which took him to Austria where he was adopted by a family and acquired a medical degree as well ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

anthropologist, was born in Syracuse, New York, to Huldah Hortense Dabney, a schoolteacher, and James Lowell Gibbs Sr., executive director of a community center. He attended public primary and secondary schools in Ithaca, New York. He continued his education in Ithaca, receiving a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Cornell University in 1952. During the 1953–1954 school term he attended the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, where he was enrolled under the faculty of archaeology and anthropology. In addition Gibbs received a number of other graduate fellowships and honors, including a National Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. From 1956 to 1958 he was a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training Fellow, and in 1958–1959 he was a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow. Gibbs received his PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 1961 His dissertation Some Judicial Implications of Marital Instability among the Kpelle examined a West ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, educator, author, and wood sculptor, was born in Orange, New Jersey, to Stanley and Mabel Harper Gwaltney and into a thriving, extended family environment that also included his brother, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Gwaltney became blind by the age of two months. His mother taught him the alphabet and the names of animals with homemade cardboard shapes, encouraged him to play the piano, and gave him pieces of wood to carve as he saw fit. Throughout his life, Gwaltney carved “ritually inspired” wood sculptures, taking as his role model his great uncle Julius in Virginia. This relative was known locally for his ritual wood carving in “the tradition of the Old Time Religion … the translation into wood sculpture … of that Core Black theology … a largely undocumented and clandestine art” (Freeman, p. 70). Concerned about John's need for formal education, Mabel Gwaltney ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, to James and Odelia Blount Harper Harrison. Her maternal grandparents, Arthur and Tola Harper, came originally from rural North Carolina. Tola Harper, the daughter of slaves, taught in a one room schoolhouse there. During the 1920s, they moved to Norfolk to improve their children's opportunities. When Faye was seven, she discovered a closet full of National Geographic magazines in her family s new house She read them repeatedly marveling at the diversity of human cultures and wondering how they became different As early as fifth grade she excelled at school Her teachers especially respected and encouraged her serious perceptive questions about human societies By high school she was so fascinated by Latin America and the Caribbean that she learned French Portuguese and Spanish One of her teachers tutored her in Spanish language literature A sorority awarded her a scholarship ...

Article

Robert Fay

Louis Leakey was born in Kabete, Kenya, to British missionaries working in colonial Kenya. Even before he received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Cambridge in England, Leakey was convinced that human evolution began in Africa, not in Asia as was commonly believed among his contemporaries. To prove his theory, Leakey focused his archaeological research on expeditions to Olduvai, a river gorge in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). He found important fossils and Stone Age tools, but until 1959 Leakey had not found definitive evidence that Africa was the cradle of human evolution.

On an expedition to Olduvai in 1959, his wife, Mary Douglas Leakey, with whom he had worked since 1933, discovered the partial remains of a 1.75-million-year-old fossil hominid. Louis Leakey classified it as Zinjanthropus (later classified as Australopithecus boisei). From 1960 to 1963 the Leakeys unearthed other important remains including another fossil hominid ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

physical anthropologist and archaeologist who discovered evidence of early human life in the Rift Valley of East Africa, was born Mary Douglas Nicol on 6 February 1913 in London, England. Her father was the painter Erskine Edward Nicol and her mother was Cecilia Marion (née Frere) Nicol. During Mary’s childhood, her family moved around a great deal. Erskine Nicol painted various portraits and subjects in England, France, Italy, Egypt, and elsewhere. Mary’s prolonged sojourns in southern France provided her with the chance to develop a fluent command of French. While she enjoyed greatly her talks and walks with her father, she found her mother’s Catholic faith stultifying even as she developed some friendships with individual priests. Her childhood came to a sudden end in the spring of 1926 when her father passed away from cancer Mary s mother decided to place her daughter in a Catholic convent but ...

Article

Mary Leakey’s deep interest in the study of prehistory began at the age of eleven, when she viewed cave paintings of the Dordogne in southern France. Although she later took courses in anthropology and geology at University College, London, and participated in excavations in England, she never earned a degree. In 1933 paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey asked her to illustrate a book he was writing. The two fell in love, married in 1936, and formed one of the most famous and successful scientific collaborations of the twentieth century.

Louis Leakey s controversial theories drove their research throughout much of their careers During the twenty years that the Leakeys spent attempting to prove that human evolution occurred in Africa and not Asia Mary developed rigorous excavation techniques that set the standard for paleoanthropological documentation and excavation A tireless worker after long days of carefully sifting the Olduvai earth for fossils ...

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

Connie L. McNeely

educator, public intellectual, and advocate, was born Cora Elmira Bagley to Horace Bagley and Clorann (Boswell) Bagley in Richmond Virginia about seventy miles from the family s home in Kenbridge Virginia At that time the small town of Kenbridge lacked decent medical facilities for the 46 percent of its population who were African American and traveling to Richmond was one of the only options for those needing medical care Elmira as her family called her was the youngest of twelve children with a multitude of nieces and nephews Her father a carpenter and contractor for small building projects and her mother who spent most of her years as a housewife but worked from time to time as a maid recognized in the precocious Elmira a proclivity for learning and an insatiable thirst for knowledge Her mother especially stressed the importance of reading and constantly provided her ...

Article

Vernon J. Williams

biologist, university administrator, and public policy maker, was born in Macon, Georgia, the son of James Madison Nabrit, a Baptist minister and educator, and Augusta Gertrude West. The elder Nabrit, who taught at Central City College and later at Walker Baptist Institute, encouraged his son to prepare for a career in higher education by studying Latin, Greek, and physics. Samuel rounded out his education by playing football and baseball, and honed his managerial and journalistic skills working on his high school (and later college) student newspaper. He entered Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1921, and after receiving a traditional liberal arts education, was awarded a BS in 1925. Samuel's brother, James Madison Nabrit Jr., was an important aide in the NAACP's legal team during the 1950s. Working closely with Thurgood Marshall in his unsuccessful attempts to begin the desegregation of graduate ...