10 Black Scientists You Should Know

Ernest Everett Just
Ernest Everett Just pioneered research into cell fertilization, division, hydration and the effects of carcinogenic radiation on cells Wikimedia Commons

In 1916, Ernest Everett Just became the first black man to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in experimental embryology, but perhaps his greatest legacy is the sheer amount of scientific papers he authored during his career.

Just was born in 1883 and raised in Charleston, S.C., where he knew from an early age he was headed for college. He studied zoology and cell development at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and worked as a biochemist studying cells at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. He became a biology instructor at Howard University before finishing his Ph.D., and would spend 20 summers also working at Woods Hole. From 1920 to 1931 he was awarded a biology fellowship by the National Research Council. Just pioneered research into cell fertilization, division, hydration and the effects of carcinogenic radiation on cells.

Frustrated that no major American university would hire him because of racism, Just relocated to Europe in 1930. Once there, he wrote the bulk of his 70 professional papers, as well as two books. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1941 [sources: Biography, Genetics, Gwinnet County Public Schools].

Author's Note: 10 Black Scientists You Should Know

This was a memorable assignment to research, not only because of the achievements of each of these scientists. The obstacles each scientist faced, which included racial and gender prejudices that prevented educational and employment opportunities, must have been frustrating and, at times, seemed insurmountable. Yet each scientist managed to not only achieve a level of success, but to pioneer new research methods and make discoveries that often had global implications.

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