George Washington Carver | Percy Lavon Julian | Charles Richard Drew | Norbert Rilleux | Marie Maynard Daly | St. Elmo Brady | Lloyd August Hall | Henry Aaron Hill | Joseph S. Francisco | James Andrew Harris | John R. Cooper
January 1864 – January 5, 1943
Known for his work with peanuts and sweet potatoes, George Washington Carver helped improve the welfare of Southern blacks following the Civil War by discovering new processes for farming, developing new uses for important crops, and advocating these developments to local farmers and the nation.
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April 11, 1899 – April 19, 1975
Percy Julian’s pioneering research in natural medicinal products led to the first synthesis of physostigmine, used to treat the eye disease glaucoma, and laid the foundation for the production of human hormones. Julian was one of the earliest African Americans inducted into the National Academy of Sciences.
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June 3, 1904 – April 1, 1950
Dr. Charles Richard Drew, born and raised in a racially divided America, broke barriers to rise above the stigma of race to become one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. His pioneering research and systematic developments in the use and preservation of blood plasma during World War II saved thousands lives, innovated the nation’s blood banking process, and standardized procedures for long-term blood preservation and storage techniques adapted by the American Red Cross.
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March 17, 1806 – October 8, 1894
Norbert Rillieux created the multiple-effect evaporator — an energy-efficient invention that uses heat from steam to evaporate water — which revolutionized the sugar industry. In the 1850’s, Rillieux used his skills as an engineer to deal with the Yellow Fever outbreak in New Orleans. He proposed a plan to drain the swamplands surrounding the city and improve the existing sewer system, thereby removing the breeding ground for mosquitoes and curtailing them from passing on disease. The plan was blocked; however, several years later, an extremely similar method was used to address the outbreak by white engineers.
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April 16, 1921 – October 28, 2003
Marie Maynard Daly is the first African American woman to receive a doctoral degree — earning it from Columbia University in 1947. Prior to that, she attended Queens College in Flushing, New York, where she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. After receiving her Ph.D., she held an instructor position at Howard University for two years and began research on the composition and metabolism of components in the cell nucleus. Later in her career, Daly developed programs to increase the number of minorities in medical schools and graduate science programs. In 1988, she established a scholarship fund at Queens College for African Americans in commemoration of her father.
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December 22, 1884 – December 25, 1966
St. Elmo Brady is the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States—earned from the University of Illinois in 1912. Brady also became the first African American admitted to the University’s chemistry honor society, Phi Lambda Upsilon, and he was one of the first to be inducted into Sigma Xi, the science honorary. After completing his doctoral degree, Brady taught at historically black universities, including Tuskegee Institute, Howard University, Fisk University, and Tougaloo College, leaving an impressive teaching legacy of strong undergraduate and graduate chemistry programs.
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June 20, 1894 – January 2, 1971
Lloyd Augustus Hall invented a number of ways to better preserve food. During his career he amassed 59 U.S. patents. Many food preservatives used today were pioneered by Dr. Hall's methods. Before his research, most preservation was done with salts and it was difficult to keep foods from spoiling without making them taste bitter. In 1932 he found a way to use a combination of salt with tiny crystals of sodium nitrate and nitrite that suppressed the nitrogen that spoiled food. This patented method of curing meats is still used today.
Hall also proved that some spices exposed food to microbes that sped up the process of food spoiling. This was contrary to beliefs at the time, which held that spices acted as food preservatives. To address this issue, Hall created a system to sterilize spices by using ethylene gas in a vacuum chamber that was later adapted by the food, drug, and cosmetic industries.
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May 30, 1915 – March 17, 1979
Henry Aaron Hill became the American Chemical Society’s first African American president in 1977. He is highly regarded for establishing standards for employer-employee relationships in the chemical profession. Early in his career, racial prejudices made it difficult for Hill to land a job. Eventually he would rise to vice president of the North Atlantic Research Corporation in Newtonville, Massachusetts, where he performed research on water-based paints, firefighting foam, and synthetic rubber. In 1962, Hill founded the National Polychemicals, Inc, to supply chemical intermediates for the polymer industry. Ten years later he founded the Riverside Research Laboratories, which offered research, development, and consulting services in polymer production. Hill received his Bachelor of Science degree from Johnson C. Smith University in 1936 and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1942.
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In 2009, Joseph S. Francisco became the second African American to be elected president of the American Chemical Society. Also former president of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, Francisco is the William E. Moore Distinguished Professor at Purdue University. He has published more than 400 journal articles, written nine book chapters, co-authored the textbook Chemical Kinetics and Dynamics, and served on numerous national science councils. Francisco's recent achievements include an appointment by President Barack Obama to the distinguished National Medal of Science Committee and an honorary doctor of science degree from Tuskegee University. In his acceptance speech during the annual George Washington Carver Convocation, Francisco remarked:
"When I look at the achievements of George Washington Carver and other great African American chemists . they are models of achievement and success. When you take a closer look at their achievements, you understand something about the meaning of opportunity; about hard work, sacrifice, determination; and about the struggle to achieve. You also learn about the importance of their contributions to making the lives of others better."
Francisco earned a B.S. in chemistry from The University of Texas, Austin, in 1977, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983.
March 26, 1932 –
James Andrew Harris is the first African American to participate in a major new-element identification program. He was also a co-discoverer of elements 104 and 105. Unlike his colleagues, Harris did not have a doctoral degree, however, he was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Houston-Tillotson College in 1973 and two Merit Awards—one from the Mayor of Richmond, CA, and the other from the National Urban League.
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October 14, 1930 –
Dr. Cooper has several patents in development of fluorine-rubber compounds that are resistant to heat which have applications for seals in jet engines. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Yale University in 1952 and was awarded a doctoral degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati four years later.
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