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Emmett Chappelle

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Information about Emmett Chappelle

Profile image of Emmett Chappelle

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Environmental Scientist
Biochemist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Assateague, Maryland
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/24/1925
Birth Location:
Phoenix, Arizona

Profession

Category:
ScienceMakers
Occupation(s):
Environmental Scientist
Biochemist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Assateague, Maryland
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
10/24/1925
Birth Location:
Phoenix
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Biography

Environmental scientist and biochemist[?] Emmett W. Chappelle was born on October 24, 1925 in Phoenix, Arizona to Viola White Chappelle and Isom Chappelle. His family grew cotton and tended cows on a small farm at the edge of town. Chappelle was drafted into the U.S. Army, right after graduating from the Phoenix Union Colored High School in 1942. He was assigned to the Army Specialized Training Program, where he was able to take some engineering courses. Chappelle was later reassigned to the all-Black 92nd Infantry Division and served in Italy. After returning to the U.S., Chappelle went on to earn his A.A. degree from Phoenix College. With the help provided by the GI Bill of Rights, Chappelle was able to receive his B.S. degree in biology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1950.

Chappelle went on to serve as an instructor at the Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee from 1950 to 1953, where he was also able to conduct his own research. Chappelle’s work was noticed by the scientific community, and he accepted an offer to study at the University of Washington, where he received his M.S. degree in biology in 1954. Chappelle continued his graduate studies at Stanford University, though he did not complete a Ph.D. degree. In 1958 Chappelle joined the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, where his research aided in the creation of a safe oxygen supply for astronauts. He went on to work for Hazelton Laboratories in 1963. In 1966, Chappelle joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a part of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Chappelle’s research has focused in the area of luminescence, which is light without heat. He has been involved in a number of projects, including the Viking space craft. Chappelle used chemicals from fireflies as well as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to develop a method of detecting life on Mars. He used this research in bioluminescence, light produced by living organisms, to detect bacteria in water, as well as in improving environmental management.

Chappelle retired from NASA in 2001. He has received fourteen U.S. patents, produced more than thirty-five peer-reviewed scientific or technical publications, nearly fifty conference papers, and co-authored or edited numerous publications. Chappelle has been honored as one of the top 100 African American scientist and engineers of the 20th century. He has received an Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA for his work. Chappelle was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. He lives with his daughter and son-in-law in Baltimore.

Emmett W. Chappelle was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 30, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle slates the interview and shares his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his mother's growing up in Montgomery, Alabama
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about how his father moved the family to Arizona
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his parents and the similarities between him and his parents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his siblings and shares his childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle remembers some of the sights, sounds, and smells from his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his childhood neighborhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his childhood schools
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his extracurricular activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about how his interest in science developed
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about living in the desert as a child
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about the radio and newspapers of his youth
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his high school experience
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his high school teachers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his speech impediment
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience in the U.S. Army during World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience in Italy during World War II
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience at Phoenix College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his wife and why he changed his major to biochemistry
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about teaching at Meharry Medical College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience at the University of Washington
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his research at Stanford University and the University of Washington
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his research at the Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Baltimore, Maryland
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his experience as an astrochemist at Hazelton Laboratories and his extraterrestrial research
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his discoveries in bioluminescence
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his research at the Goddard Space Flight Center and Johns Hopkins University
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his research in fluorescents as well as his legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Emmett Chappelle discusses his hopes for the African American community and talks about his family
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Emmett Chappelle talks about his students and his military awards
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Emmett Chappelle tells the story of how he learned how to swim
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Emmett Chappelle describes his photos