8 Famous Chemists from MSIs

by Carol Sandoval

Schools in the U.S. are integrating STEM programs into their curriculum. As we continue to educate students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, it is important to remember the specialists who have advanced these fields. Today’s MSI Line Up features important chemists who are also alumni of eight Minority Serving Institutions.

1) Henry Aaron HillJohnson C. Smith University (HBCU)

Photo of Henry Aaron Hill

As the first African American president of the American Chemical Society, he established standards for employer-employee relationships in the chemical profession. He performed research on water-based paints, firefighting foam, and synthetic rubbers. Eventually, he founded the Riverside Research Laboratories, which offered research, development, and consulting services in polymer production.

2) Alice BallUniversity of Hawaii (AANAPISI/AANH)

Alicia Augusta Ball.jpg

As the first woman and first African American to receive a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, Alice Ball made significant contributions to the field of chemistry. Her research focused on the chemical makeup of Chaulmoogra oil. From this oil, she developed an injectable oil extract which was the most effective treatment for leprosy.

3) St. Elmo BradyFisk University (HBCU)

Portrait of St. Elmo Brady, undated. Courtesy University of Illinois Archives.

St. Elmo Brady graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in 1908. At Fisk, he developed his research interests. He studied organic acids, infrared spectroscopy, and halogen compounds. As a graduate student at Tuskegee University, he published many research journals and he was later admitted to Phi Lambda Upsilon, the national chemistry honor society.

4) Henry Cecil McBayWiley College (HBCU)

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At the young age of 20, Henry Cecil McBay graduated with cum laude honors from Wiley College where he fell in love with organic chemistry. Later, as the only black student in his graduate class, he researched and wrote a dissertation on the “Reactions of Atoms and Free Radicals in Solution.” After earning his Ph.D. in chemistry, he taught at Morehouse College for many years.

5) Larry RobinsonUniversity of Memphis (PBI)

Image result for Larry Robinson chemist

Larry Robinson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Memphis. His research focused on environmental chemistry, including the detection of trace elements in environmental matrices by nuclear methods. He received his Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry from Washington University. He is currently the president of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

6) Walter Lincoln HawkinsHoward University (HBCU)

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After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he completed a master’s degree in chemistry at Howard University and a doctoral degree at McGill University. His specialization was cellulose chemistry. In 1956, Hawkins invented a polymer for the coating of telephone cables that prevents the material from deteriorating, even in severely hot or cold weather conditions.

7) Beebe Steven LynkLane College (HBCU)

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In 1892, Beebe Steven Lynk graduated from Lane College. In 1903, she received a Ph.C at the University of Western Tennessee. An advocate for women’s rights, she was a member of the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1896, wrote a book on raising the social and cultural status of African American women through education and fostering respectability. The book was called Advice to Colored Women.

8) Margaret E. M. TolbertTuskegee University (HBCU)

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In 1967, Margaret E. M. Tolbert graduated from Tuskegee University with a major in chemistry and a minor in mathematics. During her time as a professor and a researcher, she studied the conductivity and electrical conductance of different chemicals in water solutions.

Know of other chemist alumni from Minority Serving Institutions? Share in the comments below!

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