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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

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

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

Thomas R. Williams

mathematician and educator, was born in Waycross, Georgia, the son of William Arthur Pierce, a Methodist minister, and Fannie McGraw. Orphaned at an early age, Pierce was raised by his maternal uncle, Joseph McGraw, in Waycross. Following studies in sociology and business and participation in varsity football, Pierce in 1925 received a BA degree from Atlanta University. He accepted an assignment as assistant coach at Texas College in Tyler, Texas, but upon arrival he learned that he would also be required to teach mathematics. Four years of teaching mathematics proved so agreeable that Pierce adopted it as his profession. He returned to school at the University of Michigan to earn an MS in Mathematics in 1930, and he became professor of mathematics at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Pierce married Juanita George in 1933; they had one child.

In 1938 Pierce earned a ...

Article

Ann Zeidman-Karpinski

mathematician and university president, was born Dolores Margaret Richard in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Lawrence Granville Richard, a worker in the chemical division of the Exxon refinery, and Margaret Patterson. Spikes attributed her academic success to her father's love of reading and her parents' insistence that she and her sisters attend college. Her father attended primary school and got his general equivalency diploma (GED) after his children graduated from college. Her mother had a little more formal schooling, having completed tenth grade. Spikes attended Southern University in Baton Rouge on a scholarship and graduated in 1957 summa cum laude with a bachelor of science. The following year she attended the University of Illinois at Urbana on a fellowship and earned a master's degree in 1958. Just weeks after graduating she married Herman Spikes a fellow mathematician and a classmate from Southern University They had ...