CultureAfrican American Chemists

African American Chemists


African American chemists you should know plus much more.

When you think of chemists, what comes to mind? White men in lab coats? If that is the case, it is time for a reset. The history of African-American chemists is rich, dynamic, and complex. In recent years, there has been an upsurge in the visibility of African-American chemists as role models for young people from underrepresented groups everywhere. These chemists have made significant contributions to the field of chemistry and also to society at large. From working in research labs to establishing their own companies, these chemists have made it so that others that came after them would have a much easier time pursuing a career in chemistry.

As with almost every other field, the chemical sciences have long been a challenging and difficult career path for people of color. The number of African American chemists has increased significantly over the last few decades; furthermore, these individuals have made significant contributions to their field.

Many people do not know about famous African American chemists who have made a huge impact on the field of chemistry. These men and women have broken through race and gender barriers to become pioneers in chemistry. They have advanced our knowledge of organic, analytical, and inorganic chemistry beyond what was previously known by most people.

As a side note, there has been a notable increase in African American women in the sciences since the late 1990s. However, the number of African American women in the sciences has continued to remain low, and the numbers drop even lower at higher degrees. The number of African American women in the sciences has been rising since the late 1990s. The number of African American women in the sciences has been rising since the late 1990s. Some of the reasons for this are increased academic performance in high school for African American girls and an increase in the number of programs designed to help African American women succeed in the sciences.

Now below, here is a list of four African American chemists that you should know. Some of the names you may recognize, while there may be others that may be new to you. Each person has made a large impact on the world with their discoveries, inventions, and innovations.

Marie Maynard Daly

Daly was born in the Corona section of Queens, New York and attended Hunter College High School. Her interest in becoming a chemist was supported and encouraged. She graduated magna cum laude in 1942 from Queens College in Flushing, New York as a commuting student with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Queens College awarded her a fellowship to study for a master’s degree in chemistry at New York University while working as a laboratory assistant. After only one year, she completed her master’s degree. She was accepted into Columbia University’s doctoral program. After completing her doctoral degree, she taught at Howard University in Washington, DC for two years. The American Cancer Society provided the funding for her postdoctoral research.

Percy Lavon Julian

African American Chemists

An American chemist and synthesist who created cortisone, hormones, and other products from soybeans. Percy Julian graduated from De Pauw University in 1920 and Harvard University in 1923. He studied under Ernst Späth, who created nicotine and ephedrine at the University of Vienna. Julian taught chemistry at Fisk University, West Virginia State College for Negroes, and Howard and De Pauw universities prior to directing research on soybeans at the Glidden Company in Chicago in 1936. He isolated simple compounds in natural items and subsequently investigated how those substances were naturally transformed into vital components including vitamins and hormones, which he then tried to synthesize artificially. Physostigmine, a drug used to combat glaucoma, was one of the earliest substances Julian synthesized. A major breakthrough was the synthesis of the drug physostigmine, which is used to treat glaucoma.

 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was an African-American chemist who is best known for his agricultural research. His research on alternative crops and soil management techniques was instrumental in helping Southern farmers improve their agricultural techniques. His work has been credited with increasing the Southern agricultural economy by a great deal. Carver was born in the last half of the 19th century in a small town in Southern Missouri. He was born into slavery and purchased his freedom in 1881. After obtaining his freedom, Carver worked in several agricultural labs. He spent most of his time doing research on how peanuts and soybeans could be used as alternatives to cotton as a source of income in Southern agriculture.

The lives of many poor farmers were altered for the better thanks to George Washington Carver’s agricultural and economic achievements. He created hundreds of items from peanuts, including milk, cheese, soap, and grease. Likewise, he developed over a hundred items from sweet potatoes. Even though he was offered positions at numerous other laboratories, George always turned them down, preferring to remain at Tuskegee among his own people.

Ida Stephens Owens

Ida Stephens Owens was a renowned researcher on human diseases’ genetic traits. A graduate of Duke’s physiology Ph.D. program, she was among the first three African Americans to enroll in The Graduate School in 1962. She received her Ph.D. in 1967, making her one of the first two African Americans, the first black woman, and one of the first black Ph.D. recipients. In 1961, desegregation of The Graduate School preceded her arrival. In 1963, she was among the first African Americans to enter Duke. She was born in Whiteville, North Carolina, and earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In 1967, she was the first black woman and second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Duke.


As you can see, African-American chemists have a rich history throughout the world. These chemists have made significant contributions to the field of chemistry and also to society at large. From working in research labs to establishing their own companies, these chemists have made it so that others that came after them would have a much easier time pursuing a career in chemistry.

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Tom has always loved to write since he was little - he wanted to be either a writer or a veterinary doctor, but he ended up being a professional writer. He was born in San Francisco but later moved to Texas to continue his job as a writer. He graduated from the University of San Francisco where he studied biotechnology. He is happily married and a soon to be father!


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