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Abron, Lilia Ann  

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 ...

Article

Alcorn, George Edward, Jr.  

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

Amos, Harold  

Thomas O. Fox and Jocelyn Spragg

scientist and educator, was born in Pennsauken, New Jersey, the second of nine children, to Howard R. Amos Sr., a Philadelphia postman, and Iola Johnson, who had been adopted by and worked for a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who schooled her with their own children at home. This family remained lifelong friends of Iola and kept the young Amos family well supplied with books, including a biography of Louis Pasteur, which piqued Harold's interest in science in the fourth grade. Both Howard and Iola expected their children to be serious about their education and to excel academically. Harold, along with his siblings, took piano lessons and remained a competent amateur pianist. He also gained a reputation as an excellent tennis player.

Harold received his early education in a segregated school in Pennsauken then graduated first in his class from Camden High School in New Jersey He ...

Article

Anderson, Gloria Long  

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

physical organic chemist and pioneer F-19 synthetic organic chemist, was born in Altheimer, Arkansas, one of six children of parents who were sharecroppers. Her father, Charlie Long, had a third-grade education and her mother, Elsie Lee Foggie Long, a tenth-grade education. Gloria entered school at age four already able to read. She attended the segregated schools in Arkansas, which had all-black faculty who encouraged the students to succeed.

Anderson graduated from Altheimer Training (High) School in 1954 at the age of sixteen She had no choice as to where to attend college as going to college out of state was financially impossible and at this time there were no affirmative action admissions to college so in state student admissions would have taken precedence over out of state black student admissions At the time Arkansas A M now called the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the only college ...

Article

Barnes, William Harry  

Billy Scott

physician, otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist), inventor, and administrator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George W. Barnes, a laborer, and Eliza Webb Barnes and his two sisters lived poverty stricken lives on Lombard Street in a very poor area of the city Barnes decided at an early age to become a physician a decision unheard of and regarded in his neighborhood as preposterous His parents tried to discourage him from pursuing what to them seemed an impossible dream for a poor black youth hoping rather that he would focus on finding realistic employment Nevertheless determined Barnes walked ten miles every day to and from school and from his after school work as a porter and messenger for jewelry shops During summers he worked as a porter in hotels Seeing those who lived a far different and more elegant life than his own inspired ...

Article

Brady, St. Elmo  

Audra J. Wolfe

chemist and educator, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest son of Thomas Brady, a tobacco factory laborer, and Celester Brady, both of whom were born free around the time of the Civil War. Brady's father, himself illiterate, made sure that all of his children attended school. St. Elmo Brady graduated from high school with honors before enrolling at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. At Fisk, he studied with Thomas W. Talley, who was regarded as one of the best chemistry teachers in the black college system.

After graduating from Fisk in 1908 Brady accepted a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He quickly became friends with both Booker T. Washington, the institute's first president and leading advocate, and George Washington Carver the scientist famous for his agricultural research on peanuts soybeans sweet potatoes and pecans Brady was deeply impressed ...

Article

Branson, Herman Russell  

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 ...

Article

Brooks, Carolyn Branch  

Terri L. Norris

academic dean and scientist, was born Carolyn Daphne Branch in Richmond, Virginia, the second of two daughters born to Shirley Marian Booker Branch and Charles Walker Branch, owners of a grocery store. Shirley Branch earlier held a job at an antique store, while Charles Branch's early job was as a truck driver. Shirley later worked for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Carolyn's sister Delores was born in 1942, and both children attended segregated public schools in Richmond, Virginia, where Carolyn graduated from Maggie Walker High School as salutatorian. Branch excelled in academics and was encouraged to pursue a college education. With the aid of her teachers, she sought college scholarships because her supportive parents were unable to afford college tuition. Branch, a first-generation college student, chose Tuskegee University after being offered a choice of six scholarships to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU).

Her freshman ...

Article

Brown, Solomon G.  

Robert C. Hayden

Born on February 14, 1829, near Boundary and 14th Streets NW in Washington, D.C., Solomon G. Brown was the fourth of six children born to Isaac and Rachel Brown, both free blacks. Solomon's father died in 1833, leaving his mother and siblings with a heavy debt. The father's property, taken in 1834 to settle the debts, left the family poor and homeless. As a child, Solomon was not able to acquire a formal education, since there were very few schools for blacks in Washington at that time.

At age fifteen Brown began working under the assistant postmaster in the Washington, D.C., post office. He was assigned to assist American physicist Joseph Henry and American artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse in the installation of the first Morse magnetic telegraph system between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland Morse had invented the electromagnetic telegraph system during the ...

Article

Brown, Willa  

Betty Kaplan Gubert

pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory. He was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and of the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School, Brown was one of only seven black students in the hundred-member chorus. During her high school years she also did part-time domestic work. Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that later became part of Indiana University She majored in business minored in French and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha ...

Article

Brown, Willa  

Alonford James Robinson

Willa Brown was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, to Reverend Eric and Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown. Willa lived briefly in Indianapolis, Indiana, but she spent most of her childhood in Terre Haute, where she graduated from Sarah Scott Junior High School in 1920 and from Wiley High School in 1923.

Brown received her B.S. degree in business from Indiana State Teachers College in 1927. After graduating, she taught public school in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, where she developed an interest in aviation.

In 1935 Brown received a master mechanics certificate from the Aeronautical University in Chicago, and three years later received a private pilot's license by passing her exam with a nearly flawless score of 96 percent. In 1937 she earned an M.B.A. degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and in 1940 she earned a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) ground school instructor's rating.

After ...

Article

Brown, Willa  

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Brown, Willa (22 January 1906–18 July 1992), pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the internal migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory; he was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School Brown was one of only seven black students in the 100 member chorus During her high school years she also did part time domestic work Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that is now part of Indiana University She majored in ...

Article

Browne, Hugh M.  

Robert G. McGuire

Hugh M. Browne was born in Washington, D.C., in June 1851 to John Browne and Elizabeth Wormley. He had family connections among the most prominent free African Americans in Washington. His maternal aunt Mary Wormley established a school for free African Americans in 1832, and other members of the Wormley family owned a boardinghouse patronized by the Washington political elite. His paternal aunt Mary Browne Syphax was married to William Syphax, who had a position in the office of the secretary of the interior and who was a member of the board of trustees of the black public schools of Washington. Browne was educated in the schools of Washington, D.C. He received his B.A. degree from Howard University in 1875 and his M.A. degree in 1878. In 1878 he also received a B D degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the ...

Article

Chadid, Merieme  

Osire Glacier

Moroccan explorer, professor, and astronomer, was born on 11 October 1969 in Casablanca. Her father was a blacksmith and her mother a housewife who took care of the couple’s seven children. In spite of her humble origins, Chadid decided to be an astronomer at the age of twelve, when her brother Mustapha gave her a book by the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. Since then, she has pursued her goal one step at a time.

During her adolescent years, Chadid read extensively about the sky, the stars, and the planets. In 1992 she graduated with a master s degree in Physics from the University of Casablanca After graduation Chadid faced a difficult decision leave her family in order to pursue the relevant field of study for her professional objectives at a French university or remain with her family and renounce the opportunity to turn her passion into a profession The ...

Article

Cobb, Jewel Plummer  

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Jewel Plummer Cobb was born in Chicago, Illinois. By her sophomore year in high school, she had begun to work toward her goal of becoming a biologist. She received a bachelor's degree in biology from Talladega College in Alabama in 1944. She then studied cell physiology at New York University, earning a master's degree in 1947 and a Ph.D. in 1950.

Cobb continued her research at several different universities and eventually became involved in university administration. She was president of California State University at Fullerton and dean at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, Connecticut College, and Douglass College in New Jersey. Cobb became trustee professor of the California State University System in 1990. In 2001 she received the Reginald Wilson Award from the American Council on Education Office of Minorities in Higher Education for her career achievements in promoting diversity in higher education Cobb ...

Article

Cobb, Jewell Plummer  

Benjamin A. Jackson

research biologist, educator, and college administrator, was born in Chicago. Her mother, Carriebel Cole, was a physical education teacher who taught interpretive dance in the public schools. Her father, Frank Victor Plummer, a physician, graduated from Cornell University in 1908 and subsequently from Rush Medical School in Chicago. He was an early member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first national Greek letter fraternity for black men.

The Plummer family strongly emphasized education Cobb s parents circle of friends included black writers historians and artists As a member of the upper middle class she enjoyed many more educational cultural and social advantages than did most African American children of that era She had access to a library in her home that included scientific texts belonging to her father Not surprisingly Cobb developed an early interest in science Her interest in biology developed when she was a high school sophomore ...

Article

Daly, Marie Maynard  

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

biochemist, was born in Corona, Queens, New York, one of three children of Ivan C. Daly and Helen Page. Her father immigrated from the West Indies and received a scholarship from Cornell University to study chemistry; however, he had to drop out because he could not pay his room and board. Forced to abandon his dream, he became a postal worker. Daly's interest in science came from her father's encouragement and the desire to live his dream. Her maternal grandfather had an extensive library, and her mother spent many hours reading to the children. Daly found books about science and scientists, like Paul D. Kruif's Microbe Hunters, most interesting. She graduated from Hunter College High School, a competitive, all-girls public school in Manhattan. Her science teachers encouraged her to study chemistry at the college level.

After graduating Daly attended Queens College in Flushing New York and graduated ...

Article

Dammond, William Hunter  

Roland Barksdale-Hall

civil engineer, educator, and inventor, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fifth of eight children of Edward Dammond, a sailor and porter, and Lucy Dorsey. Edward Dammond served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. The fastidious Lucy Dammond was a dedicated deaconess at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the first AME church west of the Allegheny Mountains. William Dammond likewise benefited from the AME church connections and an exacting nature.

Dammond was recognized for mathematical skill, enrolled in the Park Institute, a preparatory school, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in June 1893 He was the first African American graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and one of few African American civil engineers in America During the late nineteenth century civil engineers were at the forefront of innovative technology and structural advancements such ...

Article

Darden, Christine  

Winifred W. Thompson

Christine Mann Darden is best known for her work as a researcher for NASA, where she was instrumental in conducting research on supersonic aerodynamics and the reduction of the sonic boom in supersonic travel. Darden was a pioneer in the design of supersonic aircraft. She developed several mathematical algorithms as well as devising new wing and nose cone shapes for their aerodynamic and sonic properties. She is in an administrative leadership position, playing a critical role in making decisions at NASA.

Darden was born in Monroe, North Carolina, to Noah Horace Sr., an insurance agent, and Desma Chaney Mann an elementary school teacher She was the youngest of five children At the age of three she went to school with her mother who taught first through fourth grades At the age of four she was enrolled in the first grade After grade school she attended Winchester Avenue ...

Article

Darden, Christine Voncile Mann  

Tiffany K. Wayne

aeronautical engineer at NASA, was born Christine Voncile Mann in Monroe, North Carolina, the youngest of five children born to two schoolteachers, Noah Horace Mann, Sr. (a former Latin teacher who later became an insurance salesman), and Desma Chaney Mann Darden credits her success and her early interest in science to her parents emphasis on their children s education She recalls that when she was just three years old her mother began taking Darden and her siblings to classes she taught at the two room schoolhouse across the street from the family home Darden began doing the schoolwork that the other children did and was soon working two grades ahead in school Her father also encouraged his daughter s interest in auto mechanics and fixing things around the house early training for an engineer Because she was younger than her classmates and therefore socially vulnerable her parents sent ...