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James Shoffner

Organic chemist James Shoffner was born on January 14, 1928 and raised on a rural plantation in New Madrid, Missouri. Shoffner's segregated school was open only five months a year; the rest of the time was reserved for growing cotton. He transferred to a boarding school in Kansas City, Missouri where he was first introduced to chemistry and biology. However, Shoffner still had to help in the cotton fields and school for him did not begin until late November. He attended Lincoln University for a year before joining the United States Army, where he earned tuition benefits through the G.I. Bill. After completing his military service, Shoffner returned to college and received his B.S. degree in chemistry from Lincoln University in 1951.

Following graduation, Shoffner worked at the United States Post Office before returning to school and earning his M.S. degree in organic chemistry from DePaul University. Schoffner worked at a local paint company before being hired as a carbohydrate researcher at Corn Products International. After six years, Shoffner returned to graduate school to pursue his doctoral degree in organic chemistry at the University of Illinois, Chicago. After receiving his Ph.D. degree in 1965, Shoffner joined Universal Oil Products Company (UOP) where he would spend the next thirty-six years working in petroleum chemistry, specifically studying NMR spectroscopy and additives for plastics. Shoffner started a second career with the American Chemical Society (ACS) becoming active in the Division of Petroleum Chemistry. He held a series of positions in ACS' Chicago Section including serving as a board member and co-chair of Project SEED, a program to help disadvantaged students pursue a career in chemistry. He became a councilor of the ACS in 1974. In 1993, Shoffner retired from Universal Oil Products and joined Columbia College in Chicago as a science professor and science education consultant. In 2006, Shoffner organized the American Chemical Society conference honoring the famed chemist, Percy L. Julian. He was also instrumental in the development and served as a consultant for the 2007 PBS NOVA program, Forgotten Genius , about the life of Percy L. Julian.

James Shoffner has been active with the American Chemical Society for over forty years and received his thirty-year councilor plaque in 2005. Shoffner was awarded the ACS Award for Encouraging Disadvantaged Students into Careers in the Chemical Sciences and the Henry Hill Award. Shoffner lives in Elk Grove, Illinois.

James P. Shoffner was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.116

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/18/2012

Last Name

Shoffner

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Lincoln University

DePaul University

University of Illinois at Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

New Madrid

HM ID

SHO02

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Diego, California, San Francisco, California, New York City, New York

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/14/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chitterlings

Short Description

Organic chemist James Shoffner (1928 - ) worked as a research chemist at Universal Oil Products and has dedicated over forty years of service to the American Chemical Society including serving on the national board of directors.

Employment

United States Postal Service

Corn Products International

Universal Oil Products

Columbia College

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James Shoffner's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James Shoffner lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James Shoffner describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about his mother's growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James Shoffner describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about his father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James Shoffner describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James Shoffner describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about the seismic activity of New Madrid, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James Shoffner talks about his siblings and his childhood home in New Madrid, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James Shoffner describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James Shoffner talks about growing up in the church

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James Shoffner talks about working in the fields

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James Shoffner talks about his elementary school experience, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about his elementary school experience, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James Shoffner talks about listening to radio during his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about his high school experience, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James Shoffner remembers his introduction into chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James Shoffner talks about his decision to attend Lincoln University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James Shoffner talks about his peers and his experience at Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about his studies at Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James Shoffner talks about his experience serving in the Army, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about his experience serving in the Army, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about his mentor, Dr. Monty Taylor

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James Shoffner reflects on his aspirations to be a medical doctor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James Shoffner talks about his graduate school pursuits and how he met his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about his work at Corn Products Refining Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James Shoffner considers the health concerns of corn by-products

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about his decision to pursue his Ph.D. and his experience at Johnsteen Paint and Varnish Company

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about his dissertation on the structure of pyridinium compounds

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James Shoffner talks about meeting Percy Julian

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about Percy Julian's scientific contributions and NOBCChE

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James Shoffner talks about his decision to join Universal Oil Products

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about Project SEED

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about his patents, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James Shoffner talks about his appointment as Councillor to the American Chemical Society

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James Shoffner talks about his patents, part 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about his professional affiliations and black scientific organizations

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James Shoffner reflects on his career at Universal Oil Products

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about the nation's discourse about science policy and education in the U.S.

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - James Shoffner talks about teaching at Columbia College

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - James Shoffner talks about the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - James Shoffner reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - James Shoffner talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - James Shoffner talks how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
James Shoffner talks about his work at Corn Products Refining Company
James Shoffner talks about his patents, part 1
Transcript
Alright, so you lived in Lawndale [Illinois] and had to commute to Argo, Illinois working for the corn starch. What kinds of products were you all trying to form from, I mean from corn starch?$$Okay, well, I did a lot of work with dextrose or glucose. We were trying to, they were trying to make glucose into a commercial product beyond, beyond just selling it as Dextrose. You can still, you know, go to the drugstore, and--I guess you can, and buy dextrose, you know. That's just a simple sugar, and it's not as sweet as sucrose which is the table sugar that we, cooking sugar that we use. But dextrose is a product which, which they made and still do I guess, and sell, but they sold it as dextrose. And it, you know, it wasn't that much of a market because it's not sweet enough to be a substitute for, for table sugar. And, of course, there had always, there had been attempts going back a hundred years, 200 years to try to convert glucose to fructose and everybody tries a little bit of that. But they're still doing it with not too much success. It's only going to go so far, and it'll stop, and you'll get a, what's sort of an equilibrium mixture with a whole lot of other stuff in it. So you can't make a saleable product trying to convert glucose to fructose. But everybody tries it at some time or another so I did a little bit of that. And we also did some, some glucose reduction, and not--and that's probably still done and sold as a commercial product. Out of that, you get Sorbitol, that's the main reduction product you get from glucose. And so everybody gets, gets introduced to that.$$Now, what is, I'm sorry. What is Sorbitol used for?$$Huh?$$What is Sorbitol used for?$$Oh, you know, I don't know what the big use is for it now. It's used in some formulations, some--you know, I really don't know what they--I don't recall it. It used to be used in cigarettes to a certain extent, certain tobacco products used to put, used to have a little Sorbitol in them. But it's been a long time since I followed up on, on what the sugars are, or what sugars like sorbitol are used for. But if, if you look on some--I, I don't recall now. It's been too long ago (laughter). But, you know, we did little work on that, on reducing sugars and reducing starches and things like that. And I did some work on caramel products. I worked on caramel for a while.$$Now, this is caramel that you put on popcorn here in Chicago [Illinois] and that sort of thing?$$Huh?$$The same caramel we put on popcorn?$$It might be. It's slightly different probably. Carmel is a very complex product, and so we were, they were making it at that time and selling it, I suppose. I think they were selling the product that Coca-Cola uses for coloring.$$Okay.$$And that's one of the ways in which it's used. So I worked on that for a couple of years and did, did I think, you know, some very fine work on it. They were very sorry to see me leave because I was, I had, I had begun to, to break caramel down to find out exactly what was in it. It's a mass of stuff in it (laughter), but they don't, they don't use much of it. You can take a drop of caramel and cover, and color, you know, a barrel of Coca-Cola with it. So.$$So this is caramel coloring then--$$Um-hum.$$--primarily, right?$$Huh?$$This is caramel coloring you're talking about?$$Yeah, right. And they put it in a lot of, a lot of different products. And, and so I did work on that, and find, I found out some of the products that were in there. There's a million in there, but we were just, I wasn't going to discover all of 'em, but I had, for the first time, I think, for the first time laid out what the, what the, what it looked like, what the products looked like in terms of a chromatographic exposure. And we had found out just that it was, it was just a monstrous number of them.$In 1972, you had an important, a product, I mean process patented, the manufacture of n-2-arylthiazole [sulfonamides] (laughter), I don't know if I can say it. But can you help me out here. What are we talking about?$$Oh, I think that's when I was doing some work on rubber at that time, rubber accelerators and it's part of the vulcanization process. UOP [Universal Oil Products], although its main business has been the development of oil, of oil products and methods for, for their production, you know, it's always been big in developing catalyst that could make gasoline, for example or some kind of petroleum products. But it's also been active in, in developing materials for other purposes. And so there are a number of areas of organic synthesis and production that UOP has contributed toward. You know, you just can't be focused on doing one thing. If you do, you're liable to find yourself out of business. And so UOP has always been a company, and I'm saying UOP now because that's what I'm most familiar with, and although it's a part of, of a bigger, larger corporation now, particularly, when you take me back to 1972, it's, it's UOP then. It's all UOP. That's what I was, that was the company that I was hired by, and I was working for at that time. And I was doing some, some good synthesis at that time, and good, very good process work at that time. And so, these, these compounds were good accelerators for rubber. Now, as you know, when you make, well, they were accelerators which prevented scorch. It might be called anti-scorch products. And you could, you could vulcanize the rubber if you're making tires or whatever you were doing. You were, you were curing, curing the rubber and you'd have to use various curing agents. And these, these materials, by having what we would call aromatic amines as a part of them, could cure rubber without causing it to undergo what we call scorch, and therefore, you would get tires which would be much more structured--be more structurally sound and would last longer if you would use materials that are anti-scorch agents. And one of the reasons that rubber products undergo what's called starch is that--scorch, is that you usually have to cure them, cure the rubber with protective agents. And so these protective agents are usually amines. And those amines, although you know you need them in there, particularly, the phenylene diamine and aromatic a-mean derivatives that you, that you have in there. You know you need them in there as antioxidants and anti--and, and anti- [?] but you don't want their scorch. You don't want it to scorch. So if you put in an accelerator which slows it down, you can inhibit some of the scorch and therefore, get the kind of structural build up in the tire that you want to have. And that will cause it to last a whole lot longer.

Albert N. Thompson, Jr.

Chemist and chemistry professor Albert N. Thompson, Jr. was born October 31, 1946 to Martha Furgess Thompson and Albert Thompson, Sr. in Columbia, South Carolina, (Richland County). His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father was a college professor. After attending Savannah Kay Elementary and William Miller Jr. High Schools, Thompson attended and graduated from Phillis Wheatley, Sr. High School in Houston, Texas in 1964. He received his B.S. degree in chemistry and his M.S. degree in inorganic chemistry from Texas Southern University in 1973 and 1975, respectively. Thompson served as an instructor of physical science and chemistry at Houston Community College and Texas Southern University between 1974 and 1975. He earned his Ph.D. degree in inorganic chemistry from Howard University in 1979. He then became an assistant professor of chemistry at Fisk University.

Thompson served as an assistant professor of chemistry at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. In 1981, he did a faculty research fellowship at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas before being hired as a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Thompson served as a visiting professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1990. In 2011, Thompson earned a promotion to chair Spelman College’s Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Thompson has received funding and co-funding from several research and educational grants from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Air Force, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy and the United States Army. Thompson has also served as a research and program proposal consultant to the NSF, NASA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NIH, Quality Education for Minorities (QEM) and Project Kaleidoscope organizations. A member of the University of Chicago James Franck Institute NSF Materials Research Center Visiting Advisory Committee, Thompson is an advocate for minority student training in science and research careers. He organized and is involved with the American Chemical Society’s sponsored summer research program for Atlanta area high school students, Project SEED.

Thompson is a member of the American Chemical Society Beta Kappa Chi Scientific Honor Society and the Sigma Pi Sigma Physics Honor Society. He was also featured in an Ebony magazine article on Spelman College. In 2011, he received a distinguished alumni award from the School of Science and Technology at Texas Southern University. Thompson has two children, Amber and Tayloir. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Albert N. Thompson, Jr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 20, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.072

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/20/2012

Last Name

Thompson

Middle Name

N.

Schools

Texas Southern University

Blackshear Elementary School

Kay Granger Elelemtary School

Phillis Wheatley High School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Albert

Birth City, State, Country

Columbia

HM ID

THO17

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

If you knew the answers, you couldn't call it research.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/31/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Albert N. Thompson, Jr. (1946 - ) is chair of Spelman College’s Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. He has garnered several research grants from prestigious organizations in the field of porphyrin chemistry such as the National Science Foundation.

Employment

Spelman College

University of Wisconsin, Madison

Fayetteville State University

United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine

Fisk University

Texas Southern University

Houston Community College

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Albert Thompson, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his mother's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his father's family history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father's education and involvement in a Civil Rights lawsuit

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his parents and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his earliest childhood memory of moving to Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. explains the Green Book and African American travel

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about the advantages of growing up near Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father as a professor at Texas Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his social and academic experience in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his exposure to science and chemistry

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses different junior high schools and high schools in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his experience at Phyllis Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. relates his experience with the Civil Rights Movement growing up in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his early college and military experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his mentor Ray Wilson

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about Dr. Lloyd Ferguson and his decision to attend Howard University for his Ph.D. degree

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his experience as a doctoral student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his path to becoming a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his experience as a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about Spelman College's reputation and his National Science Foundation proposal

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his visiting professorship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his involvement with minority serving STEM programs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Albert Thompson, Jr. explains his publication,'Effect of Halogenations of the Nonlinear Optical Properties of Porphyrin and Substituted Porphyrins'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses various publication, grants and awards

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses Spelman College's 'Ebony Magazine' feature and its resources

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his STEM philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Albert Thompson, Jr. relates his appointment to department chair at Spelman College back to his high school experience in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Albert Thompson, Jr. discusses his vision for Spelman College and his hopes and concerns for African Americans in the STEM fields

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his career legacy and his family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Albert Thompson, Jr. shares how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Albert Thompson, Jr. talks about his father's education and involvement in a Civil Rights lawsuit
Albert Thompson, Jr. describes his experience as a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine
Transcript
My father [Albert Nelson Thompson, Sr.] finished Tuskegee Institute [now Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] in 1940. He was in education, and he started teaching in Columbia, South Carolina. Not long after, he was very young when he went to college, I think fifteen. He was probably nineteen when he came out. He had difficult finding a job because he looked young, very young, but I remember my grandmother [Ella Evelyn Lewis Thompson] telling me that the superintendent would not hire him because he looked like a boy. And my grandmother also said that this superintendent didn't even have a college degree himself (laughter). My father ended up getting a teaching job with the Columbia school system. That's how he and my mother [Martha Viola Furgess Thompson] met. But in 1944, my father, with the assistance of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], filed a lawsuit because there was unequal teacher pay during that period. And this was happening around the country. Their counsel was Thurgood Marshall, but the local attorney who handled it was Lawyer [Harold R.] Boulware. And I always heard my parents talk about him. Well, anyway--$$What was his name again?$$Boulware, B-O-U-L-W-A-R-E. I can't think of his first name, but he handled a lot of Civil Rights cases.$$B-O-W--I'm sorry.$$No, B-O-U-L-W-A-R-E.$$U-L--$$It might be an "E" in Boulware, something. I don't think it's W-E-L-L. I think it's Boulware, right. And whenever we went back to South Carolina--we left in 1950, late '49 [1949], '50 [1950], my father would always take us up there to the courthouse and tell us the story about his court case that he did win. The judge was J. Waites Waring, who was the same judge in South Carolina that ruled on that '54 [1954] decision, 'Briggs versus Clarendon County,' you know, and then there was the Topeka [Brown versus Board of Education, 1954] case and the Virginia case. And we all know that the South Carolina case should have been the first one on the docket because Briggs comes before Brown alphabetically. And the story goes that Strom Thurmond [James Strom Thurmond], you know, cut a deal because he didn't want South Carolina to be known. Well, some, some, by default, my father and mother had to leave South Carolina because they could no longer get employment there, probably because my father was a member of the NAACP. And, you know, that was outlawed at that time. And, you know, I've heard my grandmother say, well, things always happen and you have to move on. So my father went, taught for a year in rural South Carolina. Again, we lived in Johnston, South Carolina, right in the same county where Edgefield [South Carolina] is, Strom Thurman's county (laughter), Edgefield County, Edgefield, South Carolina. Then he went on to get a masters degree from NYU [New York University, New York, New York] in the late '40s [1940s]. My sister was actually born in New York City [New York] at Harlem Hospital. And then he took the teaching job at Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas]. And then some years later, he eventually finished his doctorate degree at the University of Pittsburgh [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]. And he retired from Texas Southern after teaching there fifty years (laughter). So in 19-, I guess '99 [1999], somewhere in that time period was when he retired from Texas Southern.$Okay, we also have a note here that you became a faculty research fellow at the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine [San Antonio, Texas]. Is that--$$Yes, that summer before I left Fayetteville [Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina] and came to Spelman [Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia], I spent that summer in San Antonio, Texas. And so I did research with a Texas Southern [Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas] grad who did his masters under Lloyd Woods and Ray Wilson was his teacher also. His name was Dr. Lovelady, which is very interesting (laughter).$$(Laughter) Dr. Lovelady.$$Lovelady, yes, and--$$Is there a story behind his name?$$No, that's a family name. He's from very close to Dr. Wilson's area, Giddings, Texas. That's where Dr. Wilson is from. There is a Lovelady, Texas, but it's in East, Texas. In fact, when he would call me at Spelman, we had a switchboard operator. We didn't have direct calls, and the switchboard operator stopped me one day. And she said, "There's a Dr. Lovelady calling you and leaving a message. Is that really his name?" I said, yes, that is his name. So were looking at porphyrins as a detector for Hydrazine. Hydrazine is a chemical that's used in jet engines. If the engine flames out, they need to start it up very quickly, and Hydrazine is there to start it up very quickly instead of the fuel. But it's a very toxic and possibly a carcinogen. So they needed a way to detect leakages. And so we were looking at different compounds that could maybe form colors, and they could know if the Hydrazine was leaking or something 'cause the people on the flight path, you know, were exposed to that. So, and, you know, they also looked at other medical research there. There was a centrifuge, 'cause, you know, the pilots had to come there every so often and get retraining and experience, you know, several G's of force, things of that nature. And, in fact, I met a German scientist there, and I can't think of his name, but he was a German from World War II who came over and helped set up that School of Aerospace Medicine, just like [Wernher] Von Braun [German born rocket scientist/aerospace engineer] did, you know, come in Huntsville [Alabama].$$Hermann Oberth [Austro-Hungarian-born German physicist and engineer considered one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics]and--$$Yes, so I met him, and I actually have a book where he signed his name, you know. But that place is shut down. I think it was taken over by a private company in San Antonio [Texas]. But I know the Air Force no longer runs it. Brook Air Force Base was a non-flight place. It was just a research facility. They had some old flight paths there, but they never used it.

Jeannette Brown

Organic chemist and historian, Jeannette E. Brown was born in Bronx, New York on May 13, 1934 to Freddie Brown, a building superintendant and Ada Brown. At age six, Brown was inspired by her family doctor, Arthur C. Logan, to pursue a career in science. Brown graduated from New Dorp High School on Staten Island in 1952 and in 1956, she received her B.S. degree in chemistry from Hunter College as one of two African Americans in the first class of Hunter College's new chemistry program. Brown then earned her M.S. degree in organic chemistry in 1958 from the University of Minnesota and was the first African American female to do so. Her thesis was entitled, “Study of Dye and Ylide Formation in Salts of 9-(P-dimethylaminophenyl) Flourene.”

After earning her M.S. degree, Brown joined CIBA Pharmaceutical Company as a research chemist, where she developed drugs for diseases such as tuberculosis and coccidiosis, which afflicts chickens. In 1969, Brown was hired by Merck & Co. Research Laboratories where she continued synthesizing compounds for testing as potential new drugs. In 1986, she was appointed chairperson of the Project SEED Committee for the American Chemical Society. She served on the faculty at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) from 1993 to 2002 as a visiting professor of chemistry and faculty associate. Beginning in 1998, Brown also served as the regional director of the New Jersey Statewide System Initiative, improving science education in Essex and Hudson counties. In 2008, Brown contributed seven biographies of African American chemists for the African American National Biography, including those of Dr. Marie Daly and Dr. Jennie Patrick, the first African American women to receive their Ph.D. degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering, respectively. She went on to publish her own book in 2011 entitled, African American Women Chemists .

Brown has received recognition including outstanding alumni awards from both Hunter College and the University of Minnesota. Throughout her career, she has been involved in countless professional societies including the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCCHE) and the American Chemical Society (ACS). In 2007, Brown was an Association of Women in Science (AWIS) fellow. She also earned recognition as an American Chemical Society fellow and a Chemical Heritage Foundation Ullyott Scholar.

Jeannette Brown was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 16, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.010

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

1/16/2012

Last Name

Brown

Maker Category
Middle Name

E

Occupation
Schools

New Dorp High School

Hunter College

University of Minnesota

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Jeannette

Birth City, State, Country

Bronx

HM ID

BRO51

Favorite Season

Winter

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

101 years ago.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Interview Description
Birth Date

5/13/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Hillsborough

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Organic chemist Jeannette Brown (1934 - ) is the first African American woman to earn an M.S. degree from the University of Minnesota's chemistry department and is the author of, 'African American Women Chemists'.

Employment

CIBA Pharmaceutical Company

Merck & Co.

New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jeannette Brown's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown describes her mother's history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about her mother's education and work experience

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown describes her father's history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jeannette Brown talks about racism in North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jeannette Brown discusses her father's education and work experience

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jeannette Brown describes her parents' early life together

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jeannette Brown describes her relationship with her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown talks about her relationship with her father

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown remembers the her early childhood years

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown talks about having tuberculosis and her early interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown reminisces about her early school days in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown talks about Winthrop Junior High School and growing up in New York's Flatbush area

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jeannette Brown remembers her time at Prospect Heights High School and New Dorp High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown talks about her study of science in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown talks about preparing for college and deciding which college to attend

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown talks about studying chemistry at Hunter College

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about why she chose to attend graduate school at the University of Minnesota

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown discusses her research and her discovery of liquid crystals

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown remembers the racial climate in Minnesota in 1958

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown describes attitudes about blacks and women at University of Minnesota in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown talks about her days in the laboratory at Ciba Pharmaceuticals

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about the history of the United States chemical industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown tells about her career at Merck Pharmaceuticals

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown describes her work on Primaxin at Merck Pharmaceuticals

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown reflects on her work as a chemist in the pharmaceutical industry

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown talks about NOBCChE, Dr. Marie Daley, and her interest in history

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about her difficulty at Merck Pharmaceuticals, including an adverse physical reaction

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown describes the atmosphere at Merck Pharmaceuticals and mentoring other black female chemists

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jeannette Brown talks about her work at Merck Pharmaceuticals to attract more African Americans chemists

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown talks about students she met at Grambling State University

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown talks about her induction into Iota Sigma Pi Honor Society

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown talks about her work with the American Chemical Society and economically disadvantaged youth

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about her work with the National Science Foundation

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown discusses the Percy Julian Task Force and the research for her book

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jeannette Brown talks about the female scientists featured in her book about Africaa American Female Chemists

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jeannette Brown shares the response to her book and need for science education

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Jeannette Brown talks about the need for quality science education

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jeannette Brown reflects on the ethical responsibility of chemists

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jeannette Brown talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Jeannette Brown reflects on her career, her successes, and her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Jeannette Brown talks about her family life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Jeannette Brown talks about her hobbies

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Jeannette Brown tells how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Jeannette Brown shares photos

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Jeannette Brown talks about having tuberculosis and her early interest in science
Jeannette Brown tells about her career at Merck Pharmaceuticals
Transcript
Okay, now, tell me if I'm moving ahead too fast, but I know at a certain juncture, you got sick, right? And --$$Oh, yeah, when I was a little--okay, we, as I might have said, we lived in Washington Heights, New York [New York], and we lived at 436 West 160th Street. And that's where my father [Freddie Brown] was super. At age four or five, I got very ill, and they put me in the hospital. Columbia University Medical School [New York, New York] had a place called Vanderbilt Clinic which is up in Washington Heights, where we used to go all the time. One of the doctors there, and I think, as I look back on it, Arthur Logan, he was an intern there at that time. But he lived in the house that we lived in. And so he was my doctor. They put me in Babies Hospital [Babies and Children's Hospital of New York, New York, New York]. I remember being in a crib. I thought I was in jail (laughter). I think I saw all the bars around me. And so when I got better, I think what I had was living in New York, I had Infantile TB [Tuberculosis]. I think that's what I had. But anyway, so living in New York, when I saw Dr. Logan later on, 'cause he lived in my building, I said, "Well, how do you become a scientist?" And, oh, no, "How do you become a doctor?" He said, "Oh, you study science," you know. And I have a picture, in fact, when I saw the five year olds at the Science Museum the other day, I said, Ah, they were that small and so was I. You know, I looked up at him, and I said, "Okay." And I decided that, yeah, Science was something that I'm gonna learn because I wanted to be a doctor like Dr. Logan.$$Now, was Dr. Logan a black doctor?$$Um-hum.$$Okay.$$Yeah, Arthur Logan. There is a wing of Harlem Hospital [Harlem Hospital Center, New York, New York] named for him.$$Okay.$$I now talk to his--Adele Logan was his daughter, and they lived in the house. And she was about two or three years younger than I am. And we've met as adults. And I've got a, I've got to tell her that my book is out. I have, you know, because I've met, I've talked to her since. And she's a writer too.$$Okay, Adele--$$Adele Logan, yeah.$$Okay.$$Adele, I'm wanna think of what her married name is, oh, Adele Logan Alexander. That's her married name.$$What kind of books does she write?$$She wrote history. She's a historian. And she wrote her family history in, on her mother's side, not on her father's side.$$Okay, all right, all right. Okay, so then were you consciously thinking of concentrating on Science when you were in school then, as a result of that?$$Yeah, somehow or other, it's--I don't know. He [Dr. Arthur Logan] must have made an impression on me, and I decided, oh, yes, Science sounds like fun. The, where we lived in forty--in the Washington Heights, the library was right across the street. So I would go there for story hour. And my mother would take me across the street. It was, it wasn't a very big, you know, big street with a lot of traffic. And we'd go for story hour. And later on in years, I would go to the library, I started looking up books about what they called space at the time because there was no space travel. And as we moved from house to house 'cause my father, as I said, would get the job as a superintendent. And that included an apartment. So when he would lose that job, he would get to another job. We went to the Bronx [New York], and when I was in third grade. And I remember this, in third-grade class that I lived in--that I had there, was the Science room. So I sat right next to the fish, the goldfish bowl. I had goldfish too that I worked on as a Scientist. I think I killed 'em. And so we moved to the Bronx, and then the next job was in Brooklyn [New York]. So we moved to Brooklyn, and I was still interested in Science and things like that. So we had two jobs in Brooklyn that my father, you know, my father was the superintendent, the super's kid. And, but I was still, you know, I wanted to learn, and I wanted to be a scientist because I wanted to be a doctor. So I was always interested in, you know, learning everything there was to learn. One of the reasons why we moved out of Manhattan to the Bronx was the first grade--well, I, we skipped kindergarten.$$$Okay, well, tell us about Merck?$$Yeah, well, one of the reasons why I got to Merck was one of the women who worked with me in Ciba, her husband was a manager at Merck. And he was--this was, the Civil Rights Act had come. He was mandated to go out and look for African Americans in Science. Well, I said, well, I wanted to change jobs. So I was talking to my girlfriend, and she says, "Oh, I'll ask my husband." And so she did. And he brought me in for an interview. And they really wanted me. They wanted me, I guess, also because of my--I had, by that time I had some publications, I guess, from Ciba or pretty close and my expertise. But when I looked, later on when I looked at my personnel file, which I could, the very first page, which they forgot to take off, said, "to be filled by an African American", and I went "Umm". And the woman who was showing it to me happened to be, the personnel, head of personnel, an African American woman chemist. And she, she nearly died that they had forgotten to take that page out, the first page. But anyway, so I was hired at Merck. And all the guys said, oh, well, you came in as a legacy because of the Civil Rights. And, no, I came because of my, you know, my credentials, you know. I could do independent research, and while I was there I did. I mean what I liked about Merck was they would give me a project, and, you know, we all work in teams. So I would be, I would have a piece of the project that the team was going to work on. And you're gonna work, mostly I liked to do cyclopropyl compounds 'cause I had done that at Ciba. And so, okay, you'll do the cyclopropyl derivative. And so I would go off and study how to make this compound and come up with a plan and try to implement the plan. We would get together in group meetings and I'd get some advice from my bosses or the other members of the group. But most of the time in the lab, we were just doing our own thing. When we got together with a group, then they would say, okay, do this, do that, do other things. Once we got a target and a compound, then we'd just go do it and come up with it--and later on in our career, we started to have deadlines because it was management by objectives. And so we had to have objectives and by the year--by the third quarter, we will have, and by the fourth quarter, we will have. And we needed to have compounds ready for the biologists to test by Friday. Okay, if my compound is not ready, you know, totally analyzed and ready to go by Friday--well, if I didn't think it was gonna be there by Friday, I, you know, just worked, you know. You'd go in the labs, you know, 24 hours or whatever, Saturday, Sunday or whatever, to get the job done 'cause I had to have it there for the biologist who was gonna do the tests. And he was ready with--and he or she were ready with their animals or whatever they want to test it on.$$Okay, what kinds of things did you work on--well, let me pause here for a second. And then we'll pick up after--.

Krishna Foster

Chemist and chemistry professor Krishna L. Foster was born on January 7, 1970 in Culver City, California to parents Warren Foster and Frances Smith Foster. Her father, a sales representative for International Business Machines (IBM), and her mother, a professor of English and women’s studies, encouraged Foster and her brother to excel in school. Foster graduated from Helix High School in La Mesa, California in 1988, and she received a NASA Fellowship through the Women in Science and Engineering Program. After earning her B.S. degree in chemistry from Spelman College in 1992, and graduating magna cum laude, Foster decided that she wanted to study environmental chemistry. She continued her education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she earned her Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry in 1998. Her final dissertation was entitled, “Laboratory studies on the Interaction of Hydrogen Halides with Ice Films.”

Foster became a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Irvine in 1998. In this position, she used mass-spectrometry to examine to what extent sea-salt particles impact the oxidizing capacity of the lower-atmosphere. In 2000, she accepted a position as an assistant professor at California State University, Los Angeles. She received a promotion in 2006 to become an associate professor with tenure. Her work at California State University, Los Angeles, has focused on the effects of sunlight on pollutants at the air-water interface. Her lab has also worked to develop techniques in studying reduced phosphorous oxyanions in natural waters. This study might prove useful in determining how phosphorous, an essential element in all organisms, might have been initially incorporated into living cells in ancient earth.

Foster has served as a mentor to twenty-six high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in providing and guiding research opportunities. Alumni of her lab group have found success in both academia and industry. In 2007, she was honored with the Distinguished Women Award at California State University, Los Angeles.

Krishna L. Foster was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 28, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.031

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/28/2011

Last Name

Foster

Marital Status

Married

Schools

Helix High School

Spelman College

University of Colorado Boulder

Maryland Avenue Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Krishna

Birth City, State, Country

Culver City

HM ID

FOS05

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

Summer in Aspen Colorado

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/7/1970

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Krishna Foster (1970 - ) is known for her work in studying the effects of sunlight on pollutants at the air-water interface. She is currently an associate professor at the California State University, Los Angeles.

Employment

University of California, Irvine

California State University, Los Angeles

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2160,22:3330,35:3870,41:4320,47:5040,56:6660,73:7380,84:8010,98:16636,179:17012,184:22088,241:26566,263:27022,270:27478,277:28086,287:28922,301:29758,315:30366,325:30974,341:31506,350:32342,390:36066,462:41779,513:42509,524:43385,540:43823,548:44261,555:44553,560:44918,565:46232,582:48203,610:65148,735:82967,958:83864,974:90360,1007:90680,1012:99480,1169:108187,1276:113164,1368:114744,1391:120735,1412:121120,1421:122660,1452:123265,1466:126880,1507:127160,1512:127790,1523:128420,1535:130010,1547:130486,1556:130758,1561:131302,1572:136580,1655:136900,1661:137924,1682:140292,1726:140932,1739:141764,1753:147670,1815:149285,1838:151755,1868:160334,1936:161006,1943:162462,1965:165624,1981:169144,2024:170200,2038:171696,2076:178476,2171:179028,2178:180592,2203:182432,2228:182800,2233:183444,2245:190011,2295:190662,2303:195013,2345:197108,2358:197480,2365:199662,2392:202004,2405:210253,2487:214881,2551:215771,2563:219954,2638:220933,2650:221467,2657:235995,2865:236520,2915:237195,2926:238920,2959:241770,3018:242745,3044:244020,3067:245220,3084:245745,3093:246045,3098:251520,3114:252210,3128:252555,3134:254260,3151:254939,3202:267440,3365:268310,3377$0,0:5858,101:8181,141:9090,152:12625,207:18056,239:18914,247:19510,256:20192,270:20440,275:26799,349:31698,455:35674,592:38159,675:41141,724:41425,729:41922,743:46537,823:46892,829:47247,835:55598,873:59063,948:59945,966:60512,977:61583,999:61835,1004:62276,1012:62906,1023:63347,1032:63599,1037:64229,1053:64481,1058:64922,1066:65237,1072:73680,1166:74100,1174:74380,1179:74800,1186:75150,1192:75710,1201:76480,1217:76760,1222:77040,1227:78160,1246:81450,1274:84132,1311:84759,1323:85386,1338:93034,1397:94954,1426:97930,1471:98794,1481:105225,1520:107715,1574:109624,1609:124936,1761:125346,1838:125674,1843:126822,1883:127232,1931:127642,1937:137210,2011:137560,2018:138260,2033:140640,2098:141060,2106:141480,2116:141760,2121:142180,2128:143300,2148:144140,2167:151002,2249:151668,2265:154480,2331:154776,2336:155368,2345:155812,2352:156256,2359:156774,2367:165590,2480:177208,2608:182038,2682:182410,2694:182720,2700:183030,2706:184390,2715
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Krishna Foster's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster shares her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster talks about her mother's ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster talks about her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster discusses the career path of her mother, Frances Smith Foster

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster shares her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster talks about her father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster discusses how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Krishna Foster talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Krishna Foster discusses her father's career at IBM

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Krishna Foster recalls her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster recalls the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster describes the United Church of Christ of La Mesa, California

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster remembers her first inclinations toward science

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster remembers trips to the beach with her Montessori School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster shares her elementary school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster recalls racial bias in the educational system

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster recalls the child murders in Atlanta

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster talks about her elementary school in San Diego

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Krishna Foster talks about the meaning of her name

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster shares her junior high and high school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster talks about running track in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster describes her favorite subjects in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster shares her high school aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster discusses her identification as an African American woman

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster describes the campus atmosphere of Spelman College

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster recalls her chemistry classes at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster remembers events that happened during her college years

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster talks about her college advisor, Etta Falconer

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster describes her transition to the University of Colorado at Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster describes her graduate advisors, "Maggie" Tolbert and Steven George

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster talks about stratospheric ozone depletion

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster describes an analytical chemistry apparatus she developed

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster shares some of her experiences at University of Colorado at Boulder

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster recalls her postdoctoral mentor, Barbara Finlayon-Pitts

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster describes her studies in the Arctic, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Krishna Foster describes her studies in the Arctic, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster explains her research in ozone chemistry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster recalls enjoying her research in the Arctic

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster discusses the practical applications of her research in the Arctic

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster talks about her decision to join the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles, part 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster talks about her decision to join the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles, part 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster talks about the history of research at California State University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster talks about her mentors at California State University, Los Angeles

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster discusses her research in reduced phosphorous, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster discusses her research in reduced phosphorous, part 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Krishna Foster

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Krishna Foster talks about her hopes for her research

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Krishna Foster discusses NOBCChE

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Krishna Foster talks about her academic responsibilities

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Krishna Foster reflects on her accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Krishna Foster offers advice to young people interested in science

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Krishna Foster shares her goals for her professional career

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Krishna Foster shares her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Krishna Foster talks about her husband and children

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Krishna Foster talks about how she wants to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Krishna Foster remembers her first inclinations toward science
Krishna Foster recalls enjoying her research in the Arctic
Transcript
Okay, all right. Now when did you first start thinking about or can you remember a time when you first started thinking about becoming a scientist or did you at that age?$$I can look back and see traits where, you know, this fits me and my characteristics but I didn't commit myself to science at an early age. I can't say that at all. I enjoyed, like my mother [Frances Smith Foster] I enjoyed baking. I think I left that out and remember at like ten I was making lemon meringue pies with perky meringue and everything right. I would work on making that just right. So I had tendencies towards wet lab chemistry [a laboratory working with matter] and chemistry and curiosity. You ask for phrases earlier. One of my childhood phrases is why? Why? I always wanted to know why and so much so where I was in a kitchen at the Montessori school where they involved children in doing different types of activities. And the teacher very much wanted the children in the kitchen but when I would ask too many questions, she kicked me out and I was traumatized because I was too into it. I was too into the why and how and can I help you and, you know, I was a busy little child that way. And I went home crying to my mom, "I got kicked out of the kitchen." But this was quite scientific in that I believe it's all about observation, the power of observation and interpretation is what science is to me. I teach my students, as I've matured as a teacher I add more students that--add more assignments that reflect my values as a scientist. It's not that there is a basic skill set that you learn. Everyone has to learn the rules. This--these are tools that we use to solve problems but the ultimate is really solving problems and understanding that every one of us has a spark of genius. Everyone has the potential for genius. It's about being ready, being prepared and being creative, putting yourself in it. And these are things that I expressed as a child as far as creativity and drive and also very good at following the rules. You know I would always get a check plus for good behavior. I was very good at listening and following the rules. And no I didn't know I would end up as a scientist, but I can see that this is the profession for me. My first formal commitment to science didn't come until it was time to select a college. So that's when I picked engineering, mathematics, science.$$Okay. Well I don't want to get you there yet.$$Yeah.$$But so, now okay well, did you--were you the type of kid that watched the nature programs on television and when Walt Disney would have this nature segment or you know programs on public television and that sort of thing?$$I remember the Jacques Cousteau [Jacques-Yves Cousteau]. You know who didn't watch Jacques Cousteau at that age. And '[The] Electric Company' [PBS, 1971-1977] and '1-2-3 Contact' [sic, '3-2-1 Contact,' PBS, 1980-1988]. That's the name of it. That was--that show just sucked me right in. I was about ten years old at the time and I would watch it religiously. It was a science show and that was very exciting to me, again another early indicator that I enjoyed that show.$$Okay. Yeah that's, I remember that show now. I mean I didn't, I don't think I ever watched it but I remember just seeing it listed you know. I didn't know what kind of show it was but it's a science one.$Okay. So you're up there for a total of how long?$$I stayed for seven weeks. I stayed for seven--I think originally it was six and then we decided to extend it. So I committed to six and they kept me for seven. I would have stayed for twelve, fourteen because I was just into it.$$Okay. So your early dread of going was kind of overcome by the excitement of what you were doing?$$It was overcome by talking to Susan Solomon who actually proposed the mechanism for polar stratospheric ozone completion [winner of the 1999 National Medal of Science]. I had ran into her during my Boulder days. She actually critiqued my first poster. I ran into her at a conference. I said Susan, what have I done? How am I going to stay alive?, cause she's petite also. And so she's like, here's what you do. She wrote down some names about where to get the right boots, told me about the right parka, the right gloves and I was set. So I was comforted about the snow by talking to somebody who lived in more extreme conditions time and time again. She did this several times going to the Antarctic where I was only trying to go to the arctic. So to talk to a survivor made me feel better about going up there and I was more than prepared as far as clothing.$$Was there ever a time you were actually--had a little trepidation while you were there about--?$$I am fearless in a way and I'm cautious, I plan. But in other ways I'm absolutely fearless. And so there were very dangerous situations where--what were we doing? When we first landed there was a storm that came in. There was a storm so bad that they said if you go outside you will have permanent frostbite forever. You know this is it. If you have your skin exposed this could happen to you. So on that day you know I covered up real good and I walked to the gym. I left--I went outside. I mean I don't know. I don't know why I do what I do. Brilliantly stupid, I don't know. But then another day we were running an experiment and you have to make a decision every evening, are you going to stay in the lab or are you going to go back to base? We have better facilities, back up generators, all of this. We were running an experiment and we didn't want to leave so we decided to camp out at the base. A storm came in. I mean I have photographs of the weather just changing within twenty minutes from perfectly sunny to a vicious storm. And we're sitting there. No one could get us. I mean we couldn't get back to the base ourselves. If the power went out we would have been in a bad way. A couple of hours without power and you're just dead, you know. But we stayed up there and did the experiment and I didn't even think twice about it.

Lloyd N. Ferguson

Chemist and chemistry professor Lloyd Noel Ferguson was born on February 9, 1918 in Oakland, California to Noel Ferguson, a businessman, and Gwendolyn Ferguson, a house maid. Ferguson’s interest in chemistry began when he was a child. He built a shed in his backyard so that he could conduct experiments away from his house. Ferguson skipped two grades, and although an illness kept him out of school for a year, he was able to graduate from Oakland Tech High School in 1934, when he was just sixteen. After high school, Ferguson worked with the Works Progress Administration and soon thereafter, the Southern Pacific Railway Company as a porter to save money to attend college. In 1936, Ferguson became the first in his family to attend college, and he earned his B.S. degree with honors in chemistry from University of California, Berkeley in 1940. Ferguson then earned his Ph.D. degree in chemistry from University of California, Berkeley in 1943, making him the first African American to do so. While at Berkeley, Ferguson worked with Dr. Melvin Calvin on a national defense project, the purpose of which was to find a material that would release oxygen for use in a submarine if it was ever needed.

In 1945, after working at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Ferguson received an offer to join the faculty of Howard University in Washington D.C. He became a full professor of chemistry at Howard University in 1955, and in 1958 Ferguson became the head of the chemistry department. During his tenure, Ferguson was instrumental in building the first doctoral program in chemistry at any historically black college or university. In 1952 he was elected to the prestigious American Chemical Society. In 1965, Ferguson joined the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles, where he chaired the department of chemistry from 1968 to 1971. Throughout his academic career, Ferguson pursued many scientific interests including: the chemistry of carbon-based molecules, the organic nature of taste sensations, and cancer-causing agents. Ferguson received the California State University CSU Outstanding Professor Award in 1974 and in 1981. In 1976 Ferguson received the Distinguished American Medallion from the American Foundation for Negro Affairs. Ferguson was the only African American to receive an ACS award in chemical education in 1978. He has published seven textbooks and has written over fifty journal articles. He has also helped to develop programs such as Support of the Educationally and Economically Disadvantaged and the Minority Biomedical Research Program that encourage young minority students wishing to pursue higher education and careers in science. In 1972, Ferguson co-founded the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He retired from California State University in Los Angeles in 1986.

Ferguson has a scholarship named after him at the California State University, Los Angeles. He received an honorary Ph.D. degree in chemistry from Howard University. Ferguson is married to Charlotte Welch, and they have raised three adult children, Lloyd, Jr., Stephen, and Lisa.

Lloyd N. Ferguson was interviewed by The HistoryMakerson April 25, 2011.

Lloyd N. Ferguson passed away on November 30, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/25/2011

4/27/2011

Last Name

Ferguson

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

N.

Schools

University of California, Berkeley

Herbert Hoover Junior High School

Oakland Technical High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lloyd

Birth City, State, Country

Oakland

HM ID

FER02

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

California

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/9/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Death Date

11/30/2011

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Lloyd N. Ferguson (1918 - 2011 ) was instrumental in building the doctoral program in chemistry at Howard University, the first of its kind at any historically black college or university. He joined the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles in 1965 and co-founded the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

Employment

Howard University

California State University, Los Angeles

Works Progress Administration

Southern Pacific Railroad

North Carolina A&T State University

Carlsberg Laboratorium

University of Nairobi

Bennett College

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lloyd Ferguson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his mother and father's family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his father coming to California from Jamaica

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about how his parents met in California

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about living near his grandparents as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in sports

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about selling cleaning products that he made in his backyard laboratory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early school experience

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lloyd Ferguson explains how the depression affected his family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his experience at Oakland Technical High School, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his experience at Oakland Technical High School, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about growing up and the influence of church

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in becoming a scientist

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about having fun despite the Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his job after high school at the Southern Pacific Railroad

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about going to the University of California, Berkeley for college

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working as a red cap while attending school at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his classes and professors at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his submarine project at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about the chemistry department at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working in the radiation laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about working with Melvin Calvin in the University of California, Berkeley radiation laboratory

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson describes his research advisor at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls meeting his wife and teaching at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls notable people at Howard University, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his work in the chemistry department at Howard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls notable people at Howard University, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about chemistry textbooks

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about doing research in organic chemistry at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about the textbooks that he wrote

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his research on the taste and color of organic compounds at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls other African Americans at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls his first textbook and his sabbatical in Copenhagen

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson describes the difference in resources between the University of California, Berkeley and Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his sabbatical in Zurich and working with Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Prelog

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about joining the faculty of California State University, Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his interest in golf

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson responds to questions about his involvement with the FDA and Project SEED

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his 1971 sabbatical to Nairobi, Kenya

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson remembers talks about MBRS and NOBCChE

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls his awards and accolades

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his life's accomplishments and shares his hopes for the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his wife, children, and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Lloyd Ferguson recalls working with Melvin Calvin

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about starting the graduate chemistry program at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Lloyd Ferguson shares his memories of Sam Ashley, Percy Julian, and Herman Branson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Lloyd Ferguson remembers playing bridge at California State University, Los Angeles

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Lloyd Ferguson responds to questions about his research

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Lloyd Ferguson has trouble remembering his fellow colleagues at Howard University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his wife and his personal life

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his teaching and his textbooks

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early interest in science

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Lloyd Ferguson reflects on his career after leaving the University of California, Berkeley

DASession

1$2

DATape

1$6

DAStory

12$10

DATitle
Lloyd Ferguson explains how the depression affected his family
Lloyd Ferguson talks about his early interest in science
Transcript
Well tell us what happened, I guess, cause your family experienced an economic hit during the Depression [The Great Depression, 1930s], right?$$Yeah.$$Well, tell us what happened?$$Well, of course, I was little, didn't pay much attention, but my father [Noel Swithin Ferguson] lost his job, yes. And he couldn't afford, he couldn't afford keeping up the apartment building. The rent that came in, I mean a lot of the, a lot of people lost their jobs and they couldn't pay their rent and so forth, and he couldn't maintain the apartment building. And so he wanted to get rid of it and he tried to burn it. And that wasn't successful, so he had to go to jail for that, for arson, for a year or something.$$He was desperate trying to collect the insurance money?$$Yes, and get rid of it. I don't remember how many units it had. It was a big building there. But that's the only thing I remember at that time.$$That must have been devastating for your family, for your father to go to jail?$$Yes, right. I guess that's where he was when I graduated from college, I believe, yeah. He was still there when I graduated from college [1940]. So he spent some time.$$That's a long time to spend, it seems to me, a long time to spend for the crime.$$Yeah.$$Well, okay. So was your mother [Gwendolyn Louise Johnson Ferguson] still working?$$Yeah, she was working. As I say, she was an elevator operator, and sometimes she'd go out and serve meals for people who wanted a waitress, and you know, served meals.$$Okay, almost like a catering business or like a--$$Well, she didn't provide the food. She'd just come in and cook or not so much cooking even, just preparing it and serving it, making extra.$$Okay, she was part of the wait staff of catering?$$Yes.$$Okay. So did you participate in that too?$$No.$$So you had to live with your grandparents [maternal grandparents] after that?$$I spent, yeah, I lived with my grandparents. I'd sleep over their house too. We, they wasn't very far apart so I'm running back and forth and so forth, but most of the time I was spending with my grandparents. And then my cousins would come in and visit and other grandchildren would come in and visit and we'd play and so forth.$Were there any subjects you didn't do well in when you were in high school [Oakland Technical High School]?$$Well, I don't know. None that, maybe when I found out I wasn't gonna do well, maybe I got out of it. I don't remember.$$(Laughter). So the high school, did you go to high school in Oakland [California]?$$Yes. The teacher was very encouraging.$$You had good chemistry teachers?$$Yes.$$And so they encouraged you to go to Berkley [University of California, Berkeley]?$$I think so, probably so.$$Were you able to do lab work in the--$$high school?$$--in the high school? Did they have any labs?$$Yes, do some labs, and that's when I built a lab in the backyard and--$$Oh, you did. Did you blow up anything?$$Oh, once in a while I'd have an explosion and get a lot of fun out of it.$$(Laughter). Did you ever get in trouble with your parents?$$No, not with my parents and so forth. Sometimes teachers, the school didn't want me to fool with explosives, and that's where the fun was.$$(Laughter) How did you get interested in explosives and chemistry?$$Oh, I don't know, by a school teacher who was, let's see. I guess it was a high school teacher encouraged me to do experiments, and I learned about explosives and colors and so forth. And I just built a little lab out in the backyard and worked and played out there with the chemicals.$$By yourself or you had--$$Yeah.$$And so you were reading the books? This was in high school--$$Yes, right.$$--so you would read and figure out how to do some experiments and things?$$Yes, and explore a little bit.$$(Laughter). It was always fun.$$So that was, when you were in high school, was it close to being a senior or were you graduating or?$$No, let's see, it was probably junior and senior high years in high school, and I'd have fun with these chemicals. So I built this lab in the backyard and work out there.$$Where'd you get the chemicals? Do you remember?$$Oh, just buy them at stores.$$Oh, I see.$$Some drugstores or some--$$So you just used things that you could buy and then--$$Yes, oh, yes.$$And do you remember what made you apply to Berkley [University of California, Berkeley]?$$To do what?$$To, why did you want to go to school at Berkley?$$I don't know. It just seemed to be the only place to go.$$It was right there in town, huh?$$

John H. Hall, Jr.

Chemist and academic administrator John H. Hall, Jr. was born on September 24, 1946 to Mary Emma Hall and John H. Hall, Sr. He attended Morehouse College to receive his B.S. degree in chemistry with honors in 1969. With a scholarship for continued studies in chemistry, Hall then began his graduate studies at Harvard University. Hall worked with his research advisor, William N. Lipscomb, to better understand the nature of chemical bonds in boranes through electron orbital calculations. Lipscomb’s work in borane structure earned him the 1976 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Hall graduated from Harvard University with his Ph.D. degree in theoretical computational chemistry in 1974.

Pursuing post-doctoral research work, Hall worked with Dr. William Guillory to develop models of mechanisms of the photolytic reactions occurring to deplete the ozone in the atmosphere during the 1970s. In 1979, Hall became an associate professor of chemistry at Morehouse College and senior research scientist at the School of Geophysical Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he continued his research in atmospheric chemistry. Hall continued to study the chemical compounds and reactions of the stratosphere, including the chlorine and fluorine nitrate series, and the vibrational spectra of nitrate geometric isomers. His later work also focused on the effect that high concentrations of these highly-reactive compounds on human health, particularly low-income populations.

Hall served as a consultant for Innovations International, Inc., a company started by William Guillory that specialized in organizational development. He also served as the associate vice president for research at The Ohio State University for seven years before returning to Morehouse College in 2001 as chair of the department of chemistry. Hall was later named the Bruce Raneur Professor of Natural Sciences at Morehouse College, where he has published numerous academic papers on physical and atmospheric chemistry. Hall and his wife, Susan Hall, also started Transformational Consultants International, Inc., where they specialized in improving workplace productivity and diversity. Hall's wife, Susan, passed away in 2008.

John Hall was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 14, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.015

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/14/2011

Last Name

Hall

Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Anderson Park Elementary School

Henry McNeal Turner High School

Morehouse College

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Birmingham

HM ID

HAL14

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barcelona, Spain

Favorite Quote

I Am The Master Of My Fate. I Am The Captain Of My Soul.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/24/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Paella

Short Description

Academic administrator and chemist John H. Hall, Jr. (1946 - ) was a leading researcher in atmospheric chemistry, particularly the reactions occurring to deplete the ozone layer. Hall is the chair of the chemistry department at Morehouse College.

Employment

Morehouse College

Georgia Institute of Technology

Innovations International

Ohio State University

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Transformational Consultants International, Inc.

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:7800,85:14216,144:18933,246:20090,288:28440,502:38208,601:53004,750:53628,760:55812,815:56124,820:61038,941:65796,1076:69150,1124:86414,1355:102362,1651:104478,1681:107606,1723:111900,1755:121172,1854:121892,1865:125954,1921:128950,1940:129508,1950:129880,1957:133387,2008:138421,2043:146097,2232:146501,2237:151046,2321:157776,2371:158706,2382:159915,2402:160845,2426:161775,2454:163170,2482:163728,2489:190290,2834:199588,2933:200368,2944:203015,2956:203395,2961:205865,3002:216784,3139:222416,3234:232696,3302:233024,3307:247573,3435:248882,3455:257700,3578:262740,3670:264084,3696:269796,3801:270888,3843:280760,3952$0,0:3888,43:5656,85:7424,127:8240,145:10756,180:13000,244:19251,267:21510,274:22006,279:25194,295:25682,300:26170,305:28122,323:36150,397:37425,417:38190,427:39635,447:40825,469:41675,483:42270,492:45090,507:45410,512:46690,534:48130,559:51780,584:53060,612:53380,618:56800,637:61075,723:61375,728:61825,735:62200,742:63475,761:63925,769:64975,786:66250,808:66550,813:67000,824:67300,829:71306,841:71514,846:74646,881:75360,896:75768,901:76482,908:76992,915:77808,926:83418,950:83770,955:84298,962:87604,974:88108,983:88468,989:89188,1002:89620,1009:94030,1030:94230,1035:94530,1042:94780,1049:95130,1058:95630,1071:96030,1080:99304,1100:99927,1108:100461,1118:101084,1127:101529,1134:102330,1148:102686,1153:103220,1160:104110,1173:106602,1209:107581,1225:113316,1255:114108,1269:114396,1274:116412,1309:116700,1314:119198,1331:119710,1342:119966,1347:120478,1356:120734,1361:120990,1366:123664,1406:124070,1416:124360,1423:125172,1442:125520,1449:126042,1462:126738,1476:132791,1527:133574,1537:134096,1544:134444,1549:136561,1571:136987,1579:138194,1596:138691,1604:142268,1647:142638,1653:146700,1690:147480,1706:147720,1711:148200,1721:148800,1734:149580,1749:150000,1758:150840,1776:155608,1820:156160,1829:156505,1835:158230,1885:158575,1892:159058,1901:160024,1921:166500,1958:166800,1963:168750,2012:169125,2018:169425,2023:170175,2036:171150,2049:175850,2084:176106,2089:176618,2100:179734,2128:181252,2158:183391,2206:183943,2220:184426,2228:189780,2254:191274,2274:191855,2282:192602,2294:194594,2330:196835,2366:198993,2395:199325,2400:206940,2430:208370,2441:209580,2454:211120,2470:212330,2484:213430,2495:218520,2530:222424,2621:222872,2631:223128,2662:226264,2726:226648,2734:227160,2744:227608,2752:228184,2764:229016,2780:229272,2785:229720,2793:229976,2798:230552,2809:230808,2814:237700,2855:242868,2961:244084,2978:247706,3002:247894,3007:248223,3016:248458,3022:253506,3110:253932,3118:255423,3146:263922,3298:284526,3547:289230,3606:292590,3621:293382,3636:293844,3644:297270,3685:297606,3704:297798,3709:298134,3718:298950,3741:299526,3756:300006,3774:300342,3782:304376,3838:309771,3908:311357,3958:317091,3986:317415,3991:317739,3996:318063,4001:319359,4038:320331,4053:320736,4059:321303,4067:321870,4076:326380,4121:326720,4126:328322,4142:328632,4148:329004,4155:329252,4160:333037,4238:333463,4243:334173,4254:335380,4282:339174,4317:341350,4360:341735,4368:342010,4374:342560,4390:351300,4450:352110,4457:354530,4478:355754,4502:360782,4565:361006,4570:361734,4585:365800,4635:367088,4671:367424,4684:367648,4689:367984,4697:368208,4702:369440,4733:369664,4738:370280,4752:370504,4757:371008,4768:371288,4774:371680,4794:379306,4858:379624,4865:379836,4870:380207,4878:382454,4909:383574,4944:383910,4952:384190,4959:398536,5150:400372,5197:401732,5226:402412,5240:402752,5246:403092,5253:403500,5260:404724,5323:406780,5354:416056,5470:416324,5475:417865,5499:419138,5529:419406,5534:419808,5542:420411,5554:420679,5560:421617,5576:422488,5593:422756,5598:427430,5616:427920,5624:432980,5668
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Hall's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Hall shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Hall talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Hall talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Hall talks about his father as the bread winner

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Hall discusses his parents' mixed-race marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Hall shares memories from his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Hall talks about his father in the meatpacking industry

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Hall describes his childhood in Atlanta

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Hall describes his family life

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Hall talks about his involvement in music during the early days of rock and roll

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Hall describes his elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his lack of interest and in his formal schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Hall talks about his interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Hall talks about finishing high school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John Hall reflects on his decision to major in chemistry at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Hall explains his decision to go to Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Hall explains how Henry McBay influenced his decision to study chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Hall talks about Morehouse College's approach to teaching chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Hall talks about playing semi-pro baseball while at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his professors at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Hall discusses civil rights activity in Atlanta

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Hall talks about he and his family's involvement in civil rights activities

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Hall talks about his transition from Morehouse College to Harvard University for graduate school

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - John Hall talks about his study group at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Hall talks about the scientists he met at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Hall talks about his enzymology course at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Hall talks about his research focus in theoretical chemistry at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Hall talks about his publications

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Hall describes the formation of the National Organization for Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Hall explains his joint work with William Lipscomb in chemical bonding

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John Hall talks about his Ph.D. dissertation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John Hall recalls William Lipscomb's 1976 Nobel Prize

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John Hall explains his post Ph.D. path

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Hall talks about his studies of the ozone layer

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Hall talks about his work at the University of Utah and Georgia Tech

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John Hall talks about his experience as a part-time professor at Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John Hall recalls his summer fellowship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his marriages

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John Hall describes his 1982 trip to China

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John Hall describes his role in establishing a research computing facility at the University of Atlanta Center

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - John Hall discusses Atlanta's golden age

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - John Hall describes his 1984 paper on chlorine nitrate

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - John Hall talks about his NSF report on the development of research at minority institutions

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - John Hall discusses the development of research at minority institutions

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - John Hall talks about being director of academic and research computing for the Atlanta University Center

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - John Hall discusses the development of computer technology

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - John Hall talks about his promotion at Georgia Institute of Technology and his summer at Rice University

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his work as a consultant at Innovations International

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - John Hall responds to a question about his time at Ohio State University

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - John Hall explains his 2001 return to Morehouse College and the city of Atlanta

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - John Hall talks about his shift in research at Morehouse College

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - John Hall discusses his research on the behavior and expression of individual people

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - John Hall talks about the future of his research at Morehouse College

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - John Hall discusses his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - John Hall reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - John Hall talks about his family members and how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$7

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
John Hall talks about his interest in science
John Hall discusses his research on the behavior and expression of individual people
Transcript
Did your parents, did your parents, can you credit your parents with exposing you to materials of scientific...?$$No, actually they didn't. My father [John Henry Hall, Sr.] actually exposed me to the world, like travel and going around. And my mother [Mary Emma Watson] was pretty good with numbers, but she didn't--she did more playing the numbers than she did in calculus, mathematics, you know (laughter). But I just don't know how. I loved comic books and I read a lot of comic books.$$Did you have a favorite comic book?$$I did. It was like 'Superman' and 'Batman' and then there were these science fiction comics, I can't remember. But they would have these things in them about the international geophysical year and about astronomy and about the universe, and I would read that, and that would be the most interesting part. And then I'd go to the library and I'd check these books out. I remember that one time I went to the library and I had these books on electricity and magnetism and chemistry and stuff. I was like eleven years old. And I went to check them out, and the librarian said, "Can you read these books, are you sure?" And I said, "I think, yeah, I check them out every week." And so, that was what I did.$$So, do you think maybe you were bored with curriculum and really wanted something else?$$I was pretty bored with school. I just wanted to play baseball. I played baseball a lot, and that's all I really wanted to do. And then I'd go home and read my books at night because there wasn't a lot, much else to do. Or, I'd watch TV. There were a lot of exciting things to watch on TV back then, you know. The things, it's interesting, the shows I most watched were like the 'Today Show' and I remember looking at that the morning they were talking about the polio vaccine. They were tracking whether people had contracted polio from taking the vaccine, the map back then, and I remember you know, different things like that. But it all had to do somehow with some science.$$Okay, did you watch 'Mr. Wizard' with Don Herbert?$$It was okay, I thought it was kind of boring (laughter), but I would watch it, you know. There was a whole lot of watching TV.$$Did you ever watch, they had the Walt Disney science specials. They were all on sometimes...$$Yeah, I would do that. My mother, my parents bought me a chemistry set, and microscope sets and stuff like that. They bought me a telescope when I was really young, and so they would do things like that, because that's what I wanted. But you know, I didn't even know that there was a profession called scientist that I could have access to. You know, I didn't know how these people got to be at the North Pole doing whatever they were doing.$$(unclear) Thomas used to go to those places on television...$$Yeah.$$Did you know any of the doctors or the professors over here at the Atlanta Morehouse [College] complex?$$Not when I was in elementary school. In high school I knew Samuel Williams, who was a professor of religion. In fact, his son was my best friend, and I started to spend a lot of time--they lived across the street from the school, and I was spending a lot of my time over here at his house, you know, on the Morehouse campus, but he was mainly the only one that I knew.$$Okay. Now, in high school, did you become popular after you started making good grades?$$I don't think so (laughter). I don't know, I think I was most popular for my music. I think that's what really made me popular. I don't think the grades did anything (laughter). People-- Well more people talked to me because they wanted to know if I could help them with stuff, with their mathematics or with their chemistry.$$So your grades went up. Did they go up high enough for you to be part of the National Honor Society?$$Yeah, I made the National Honor Society. I was accepted at Morehouse [College, Atlanta, Georgia]. I got a scholarship to come to Morehouse.$We were talking off camera, and this seems interesting because you said part of your research is, has to do with, I guess, the expression of the individuals and, just elaborate on that for a minute, because we were talking about conciseness on language and...$$Yeah, people have particular ways that they need to behave in order to be non-stressed. And, of course, in addition to that, there's a group of socialized behaviors that we learn to do because that's what's acceptable in society, right? And in many cases, the socialized behaviors and the way we need to behave overlap. Because if they didn't they would probably end up in jail somewhere or something (laughter). So, what we were talking about off camera is that people have a certain need to be able to communicate in a particular way. Like some people are very direct, and some people are not direct at all. And people who are very direct have a need to be direct. Then there are some people that have a need for other people to be direct with them. And then some people have a need for people to be indirect with them. Now the problem arises is when you have a person who is very direct talking to a person who has a need for you to be indirect. Then that causes a problem. Or, a person who is very direct, and somebody is talking to that person who has a need to be very indirect with that person. What they don't understand is that if I have a need for you to be direct with me, and you're not, I literally cannot understand what you're saying. I literally cannot read between the lines. I have no idea what you're talking about. And you'll just think that I'm not being cooperative. So, we do that kind of research and we help people to match up and understand not only how they are--because most of us don't know how we are. See, you actually don't know sitting over there in that chair whether you have a need for people to be direct with you or not. You actually don't know that, because you can't see your needs. Now you might feel that you get irritated by people who are indirect with you. That would be a clue (laughter). So, we do that for organizations or for people. And my wife used to call what we do is that we build working relationships that work. Because our view of another person is a perception of that person, it's not actually who that person is, and we build that perception by how that person interacts with us.$$Is scientific research and interaction and projects, are scientific projects dependent on that kind of information?$$Well, what's dependent--no, no, not really. Scientific projects are not. I mean, you have people who are direct and people who are indirect, it doesn't matter, they can do science just as well. It doesn't affect your performance, it only affects your ability to have relationships with other people.$$Okay.$$Because if I'm direct, and you don't want--and you have a need for me to be indirect, then right there we have a cause for conflict. And we don't even know why we're having conflict, we just know, I just know, that every time I talk to you and you don't like it because I'm so--but I don't even know that I'm indirect--I'm just saying what I have to say to get my point over.$$Okay, okay.$$Then after I finish talking, five minutes later you still don't understand what I said (laughter).$$For instance, we're all working on a project, say you and Dr. J.K. Haynes. Both of you seem to be sort of gregarious and outgoing men, and there are people who are going to be scientists who are not, they are used to being alone, and they say this. So, your work, is it to bridge the gap between these two kinds of personalities?$$Yes. Because, you know, they have all kinds of personalities working in the workplace, right, working together? And when people have conflicts, it's usually because a need is not getting met that somebody has. Now, they don't know it's not getting met because they don't know they have it, but once they know that they have it, and they can see it in this assessment, it makes perfect sense to them why they've been acting the way they've been acting, and why other people have been setting them off the way they've been setting them off.$$So, do you have like assessment tools?$$Yes, we do, we have assessment tools that we use to do that.$$Okay. Well, this helps individuals realize where they are on the spectrum and...?$$See, with the assessment tool, I can tell things like, okay, does the person eat lunch at the same place everyday? Or better yet, does the person order the same thing everyday when they go to eat? Because all I have to do is look at their thought score. If it takes them a long time to make decisions, then they order the same thing all the time because it keeps them from having to make hard decisions. Or, they'll lay their clothes out for the entire week because they don't, they get up in the morning and it would take them too long to make a decision about what they're going to wear, so they lay them out. With me, I don't lay anything out, I just put whatever's there on, because I have a low thought score (laughter). So it's a very great instrument. We use it to coach the students, too, and to mentor them. And it gives them a better understanding of who they are, what they're needs are, and how they can interact successfully with other people.$$Okay. Well, part of what you're saying is that if we understand who we are, we actually can be more successful.$$Oh, yeah. Exactly, exactly. So part of what makes a person, you know, that "empowered individual" is a firm understanding and inquiry into who they are, and what are their needs.

J. K. Haynes

Biologist and academic administrator John K. “J.K.” Haynes was born on October 30, 1943 in Monroe, Louisiana to John and Grace Haynes. His mother was a teacher and his father was the principal of Lincoln High School in Ruston, Louisiana. Haynes began first grade when he was four years old. When he was six, his family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Haynes began attending Southern University Laboratory School. He attended Morehouse College when he was seventeen and he received his B.S. degree in biology in 1964. Haynes aspired to attend medical school. However, a professor advised him to apply to graduate school and he went on to attend Brown University, where he obtained his Ph.D. degree in biology in 1970.

Haynes completed his first year of postdoctoral research at Brown University, where he worked on restriction enzymes. During this time, he became interested in sickle cell anemia, which led to a second postdoctoral appointment in biochemistry at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he worked with Vernon Ingram, the scientist who discovered the amino acid difference between normal and sickle cell hemoglobin. In 1973, Haynes joined the faculty at the Meharry Medical School as a junior faculty member in the department of genetics and molecular medicine and the department of anatomy. His research was focused on why sickle cells were less deformable than normal. In 1979, he returned to Morehouse College as an associate professor of biology as well as the director of the Office of Health Professions. As part of his work, Haynes created a program for high school students interested in medical school. Haynes has also helped recruit minority students into science with the assistance of agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Haynes became the endowed David E. Packard Chair in Science at Morehouse College and chairman of the biology department in 1985. In 1991, he took a sabbatical and went to Brown University to continue his work on sickle cells. Since 1999, he has served as Dean of Science and Mathematics at Morehouse College.

Under Haynes administrative leadership, new buildings for both chemistry and biology were built at Morehouse College as well as a curriculum with an emphasis on lab work. Haynes has published papers on cell biology as well as on undergraduate STEM education.

J. K. Haynes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 14, 2011.

Accession Number

A2011.013

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/14/2011

Last Name

Haynes

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Kermit

Schools

Southern University Laboratory School

Morehouse College

Brown University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Monroe

HM ID

HAY12

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

We're Building A House At The House.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/30/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lamb

Short Description

Academic administrator and biologist J. K. Haynes (1943 - ) developed methods for detecting and preventing sickle cell anemia. He joined the faculty of Morehouse College in 1979 and later became Dean of the Division of Science and Mathematics.

Employment

Meharry Medical College

Morehouse College

Brown University

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:3029,36:5320,119:9033,184:15200,260:20140,375:20748,384:21964,402:36644,604:37232,613:39416,647:53116,845:55428,883:63870,1026:65040,1047:65352,1052:67810,1057:69640,1066:72810,1117:74630,1192:102459,1581:103089,1592:105357,1645:109880,1687:111988,1736:123810,1937:128080,2036:128850,2049:129270,2056:139160,2181:143316,2221:145087,2257:147474,2307:150169,2364:150554,2370:152017,2414:160924,2522:169586,2614:175549,2692:176353,2708:183284,2776:185156,2820:185804,2830:189417,2868:189886,2876:198375,3034:209050,3231:210022,3244:210589,3253:214938,3297:222558,3375:224702,3428:239610,3591$0,0:12120,145:13055,156:13990,167:15690,197:16370,208:19175,255:19515,260:28600,368:28925,374:29640,391:30550,412:31265,425:32760,456:33605,472:34255,484:34515,491:36205,533:37505,556:43550,696:44785,720:45435,728:45695,733:46085,764:53270,828:58198,935:62108,993:67291,1095:70722,1180:71525,1193:73131,1225:74737,1267:75175,1274:76124,1295:77219,1316:88180,1478:94387,1532:94751,1537:95115,1542:95570,1549:97390,1579:98118,1588:102625,1622:103275,1634:103535,1639:119418,1986:122822,2067:123488,2078:140640,2342:140900,2347:141940,2365:142200,2407:152455,2533:156089,2659:175900,2846:176960,2858
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of J.K. Haynes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - J.K. Haynes talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - J.K. Haynes recalls his childhood in Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - J.K. Haynes talks about himself as a student

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - J.K. Haynes explains his family's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - J.K. Haynes recalls his father's funeral home business

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - J.K. Haynes recounts his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - J.K. Haynes talks about his interests during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - J.K. Haynes talks about his experience in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes talks about resemblance to certain family members

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes recalls his experience at Morehouse College under President Benjamin Mays

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - J.K. Haynes recalls student activism in Atlanta

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - J.K. Haynes talks about the influential science faculty at Morehouse College, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - J.K. Haynes talks about the influential science faculty at Morehouse College, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - J.K. Haynes talks about his graduate school experience at Brown University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - J.K. Haynes talks about sickle cell anemia and relates his Ph.D. dissertation topic

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes describes his postdoctoral molecular biology research at Brown University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes responds to a question about his work as a biologist

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - J.K. Haynes discusses the nature of post doctoral research

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - J.K. Haynes talks about financial problems at the Meharry Medical College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - J.K. Haynes talks about his achievements in sickle cell anemia research, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - J.K. Haynes talks about his achievements in sickle cell anemia research, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - J.K. Haynes discusses his reaction to the first reported sickle cell anemia cure

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - J.K. Haynes talks about his research in sickle cell anemia, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes talks about his research in sickle cell anemia, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes discusses the nature of his scientific research and funding

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - J.K. Haynes describes Project Kaleidoscope

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - J.K. Haynes describes the history of the Nabrit-Mapp-McBay building at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - J.K. Haynes talks about his involvement with the American Society for Cell Biology Minorities Affairs Committee

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - J.K. Haynes recalls Walter Massey's presidency at Morehouse College

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - J.K. Haynes talks about the sickle cell anemia drugs and treatments

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - J.K. Haynes reflects on the wisdom of his parents

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes talks about his academic promotions at Morehouse College

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes discusses health issues in the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - J.K. Haynes reflects on balancing his administrative, research, and teaching responsibilities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - J.K. Haynes talks about the changing focus of sickle cell anemia research

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - J.K. Haynes talks about his involvement with the World Learning School for International Training

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - J.K. Haynes describes his concept for a program to develop new science faculty

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - J.K. Haynes shares his hopes for Morehouse College's future

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - J.K. Haynes talks about what he would have done differently in his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - J.K. Haynes discusses the impact of advice from his mentors

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - J.K. Haynes reflects on his life's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - J.K. Haynes talks about his family and his likeness to Ebony editor, Lerone Bennett

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - J.K. Haynes responds to a question about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - J.K. Haynes talks about his interest in art and music

DASession

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DAStory

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DATitle
J.K. Haynes talks about the influential science faculty at Morehouse College, part 1
J.K. Haynes recalls Walter Massey's presidency at Morehouse College
Transcript
Some people like Lonnie King, and I think that Lonnie King may have been here. He may have been a senior when I was a freshman so Lonnie was one of these guys with Julian [Bonds] and others. That's what they spent their time doing.$$Now, was David Satcher a biology major too?$$Yes.$$Okay, so did you see a lot of him in the biology department?$$Yeah, yeah. So one of the powerful influences on the biology majors during that time was a guy by the name of Roy Hunter. And so Roy Hunter was one of, Roy loved David Satcher, and so when I came along under Roy Hunter, and so when I give talks about my mentors, he's the one who I always mention first at Morehouse [College, Atlanta, Georgia].$$Now, why was Dr. Hunter so important?$$He was a powerful, powerful instructor. So he was a guy who had polio when he was a kid, and so he spent his life on crutches before he moved to a motorized cart. But when he taught at Morehouse, he was on crutches. Yet he could draw these beautiful diagrams of anatomy and embryos on the board, and he'd talk with such facility about the subject. And so for those--it turns out that he and Dr. [Frederick E.] Mapp who was the chair of the department at that time, did not necessarily get along. And so Roy Hunter's tenure at Morehouse was short-lived. But for those of us who came along during the time that he was there, or here, he was a tremendous influence on us.$$Now, where did he go when he left Morehouse, do you know?$$I think he became chair of the Department of Biology at Morgan State [University, Baltimore, Maryland]. And he eventually became chair of the Department of Biology at Atlanta University, and at some point, he went to work for Lou Sullivan at the Morehouse School of Medicine as an administrator.$$Okay.$$So one of the things that I regret most is not bringing him back to the faculty at Morehouse when I became chair of biology. He and I used to talk about that. I just couldn't pull it off. So one of the things that I did as chair of biology was to move in the direction of hiring people who not only taught but did research. So Roy was way beyond doing research, but he was such a giant that I wanted to have him in the midst just to have that history and tradition and the power that he conveyed just talking to students. And I just didn't pull it off. And he always reminded me, I'm still waiting for you to invite me back. I just, just couldn't do it.$$So, he's passed now?$$Yeah, he died, I guess, about ten years ago.$$Okay, okay, but a great mentor.$$Powerful mentor.$$Okay, now we always hear a lot about Henry McBay. Did you have him for--$$I took him for, I had him in general chemistry class, and was also powerfully influenced by him. People were more frightened by Henry McBay. So he's known for either producing chemists or producing politicians or ministers. So Maynard Jackson used to tell the story that the reason--because Maynard Jackson apparently wanted to be a physician when he came here. And so Henry McBay turned him towards politics.$$So in other words, he, you either succeeded sort of--$$That's right.$$--big time here or he pushed out of--$$That's right, right. So he was very demanding, put a lot of emphasis on the mathematical basis of chemistry. He would fill up the board with just equations, and he wrote beautifully. And his, he had sort of an extreme attitude about things, and so he frightened a lot of students. I mean I thought he was a great instructor. I enjoyed his style of lecturing. And I don't think I felt intimidated by him.$$That's interesting. Okay.$Okay. So in '95 [1995], Walter Massey becomes the ninth president of Morehouse [College, Atlanta, Georgia]. He's a physicist.$$Right.$$Did his presidency facilitate science at Morehouse?$$Not as much as we thought it would, although Walter [Massey] was very supportive of a number of things that we did. So one of the important things that Walter did was to create three divisions at the college. So we have Business and Economics, Social Sciences and Humanities, and Science and Math. That was his idea, and so we've split the college now into about three equal parts. With about a thousand students--at the time, he was here, we had about three thousand students. And so his idea was to reduce the scale of the college more like it looked, and to make it more like it looked when he was a student here, so when I was a student, there were only eight hundred students at Morehouse. So he was trying to promote faculty-faculty interaction, faculty-student interactions, etc. And that actually had a transformative effect. So when we created, when we brought the three--six departments together that constitute the Division of Science and Math, it's been a, there was an explosion of activity. And so we meet, as a faculty, every month. People are talking across disciplines. And at some point, students finishing the division will have a more interdisciplinary education, which is where we wanna go. We're developing interdisciplinary curricula, interdisciplinary research and so I think while, at the time, it didn't seem like such a momentous deal, it has had an enormous impact. We began the Division of Science and Math with a grant that we got from the Packard Foundation. Walter was on the board of the Packard Foundation. So that's very helpful. So Walter is connected to the titans of American industry. So he brought the heads of GE [General Electric, Fairfield, Connecticut], Motorola [Inc., Schaumburg, Illinois]. Walter is more of a scholar than he is a business person. So he's not known for twisting arms. And so they didn't leave perhaps as much money as they might, but they came to know about us. And so the current president [Robert M. Franklin] I think is more of an arm twister, and I think, so we're gonna reap the benefits of what Walter has established. But Walter had to deal--you know, people have said about Walter that he's a guy who thinks very broadly. He's now the president of the Art Institute of Chicago, right, so (laughter). So he's had a very broad prospective, and so I think that he was a wonderful president at Morehouse. I don't know that he could afford, because we had a number of problems that he had to deal with. I don't know that he could afford to just tackle the sciences. So I think what he did was to seed something. And the fruits of that will be manifested in the years ahead.

Alvin Kennedy

Chemist and chemistry professor Alvin P. Kennedy was born on June 1, 1955, to Helen Augusta Kennedy and Amos Paul Kennedy. He grew up in Grambling, Louisiana, where he attended Grambling Laboratory School and later Grambling High School. Kennedy attended Grambling State University during which time he participated in several research internships, graduating with his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1978. He pursued graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley with funding from an AT&T Bell Labs fellowship. His graduate research focused on the development of chemical lasers and the kinetics associated with spontaneous reactions. Kennedy received his Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry in 1985.

After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, Kennedy was hired at Dow Chemical Company as a senior research chemist in central research, where he developed new polymer systems for microelectronic applications. He also produced sixteen internal publications and was promoted to project leader in central research at Dow in 1989. In 1991, Kennedy was appointed assistant professor of chemistry at North Carolina A&T State University, and in 1996, he was promoted to associate professor. He also received a NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)/ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Research Fellowship at the Marshall Space Flight Center in 1997. In 2000, Kennedy joined the faculty at Morgan State University as associate professor of chemistry and chair of the chemistry department. Kennedy has been a tenured professor at Morgan State University since 2002.

Kennedy received several patents throughout his career including two patents on laminates of polymers in 1993 and 1995. In 1998, he patented the Resin transfer molding process for composites. Kennedy has been the recipient of several honors including his 1998 appearance in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and his 2008 Henry McBay Outstanding Teacher of the Year award from the National Organization of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers. He is married to Sharon Kennedy and has three children from a previous marriage.

Alvin Kennedy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 15, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.067

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/15/2010

Last Name

Kennedy

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alvin

Birth City, State, Country

Lansing

HM ID

KEN04

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chincoteague, Virginia

Favorite Quote

Do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/1/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist Alvin Kennedy (1955 - ) is chair of the chemistry department at Morgan State University. During his career, he worked at Dow Chemical Company where he received three polymer-related patents.

Employment

Morgan State University

North Carolina A&T State University

Dow Chemical Company

University of California, Berkeley

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:4231,51:4952,59:5776,68:12680,152:17270,231:24786,276:25366,282:32698,334:35700,394:36727,410:37517,421:40045,472:40440,478:46250,518:46490,523:48650,530:49420,544:49980,553:50260,558:50610,564:51030,572:52740,587:59892,687:60662,699:61278,711:61971,722:68424,783:70764,821:81600,955:82943,969:92172,1030:92764,1040:95428,1101:95872,1107:98462,1145:100164,1187:102384,1240:102754,1246:104160,1275:112308,1364:112516,1369:112724,1374:116430,1414:117112,1457:119282,1473:119939,1486:120231,1491:127604,1609:127896,1614:128480,1623:129137,1634:129794,1645:149870,1898:151745,1923:158740,2025:164112,2122:164384,2127:165132,2139:165404,2149:171620,2204$0,0:5532,48:8260,155:23090,317:23565,323:32338,431:32730,436:56791,762:66515,889:67211,903:67646,909:76798,1031:78888,1046:81528,1108:85158,1198:86808,1228:87534,1245:91560,1343:93276,1385:93738,1395:94200,1405:101022,1445:101477,1451:103479,1478:104116,1487:104571,1493:117901,1665:118510,1672:119293,1685:120598,1717:137748,2008:139420,2054:146220,2134
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alvin Kennedy's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alvin Kennedy shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alvin Kennedy describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his parents' academic careers

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alvin Kennedy discusses his family's emphasis on education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alvin Kennedy describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alvin Kennedy shares childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alvin Kennedy lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alvin Kennedy talks about growing up in Grambling, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his early school experiences in Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alvin Kennedy details his childhood experience in Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alvin Kennedy recalls his early interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alvin Kennedy describes his junior high school and high school experiences in Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alvin Kennedy recounts his undergraduate experience at Grambling State University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alvin Kennedy remembers coaching his high school basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alvin Kennedy discusses his scientific influences during college at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alvin Kennedy talks about faculty members at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alvin Kennedy talks about football at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alvin Kennedy discusses being raised as a Methodist.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alvin Kennedy talks about the interplay between science and religion

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alvin Kennedy talks about himself as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alvin Kennedy describes his internships during college at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alvin Kennedy discusses his internship at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his graduate school experience at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alvin Kennedy describes the field of physical chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Alvin Kennedy remembers racial difficulties during graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alvin Kennedy talks about graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alvin Kennedy describes his graduate research with chemical lasers

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his graduate school experience at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alvin Kennedy details his final dissertation defense

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alvin Kennedy talks about how his family influenced his graduate school experience

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alvin Kennedy reflects on his decision to go into industry after graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alvin Kennedy describes his experience at Dow Chemical Company

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alvin Kennedy discusses his career move to North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Alvin Kennedy describes his awards and patents

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Alvin Kennedy remembers the reaction to one of his early National Science Foundation grant proposals

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his transition to teaching at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alvin Kennedy talks about getting funding at North Carolina A&T State University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alvin Kennedy recalls leaving North Carolina A&T State University for Morgan State University

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alvin Kennedy details his initiatives at Morgan State University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Alvin Kennedy recalls Morgan State University students' reactions to focus on research

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his involvement in NOBCChE and the American Chemical Society

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Alvin Kennedy discusses the future of his field and his long-term vision for the Morgan State University chemistry department

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Alvin Kennedy talks about his spouse and children

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Alvin Kennedy reflects on his life's accomplishments

DASession

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DATitle
Alvin Kennedy recalls his early interest in science
Alvin Kennedy talks about his graduate school experience at the University of California, Berkeley
Transcript
Let's go back to Grambling [Louisiana]. Are there special teachers there at the elementary school [Grambling Laboratory School] that stand out?$$Yeah, actually, there were. Ms. Turner, it was my fifth grade teacher. And I think that was when I first started, that's when I first started accepting the fact that I could do math. I mean I, and I realized that I was good at it and didn't--it wasn't a stigma associated with it. It was sort of, it was actually fun to a large extent. And so I think she was the one that really enabled me in terms of just being able to just recognize that I can do math and I was good at it.$$Is this also when you develop an interest in science?$$My interest in science? I think I've always had an interest in science to a certain extent. I've always been interested in fundamental questions, you know, the why am I here, what's going on type of thing? So I've always had that interest in general.$$Do you remember your earliest recollection about science?$$Well, yeah, actually, I do. It turns out that we used to go to my father's [Amos Paul Kennedy] office after church. And there, he actually had a chemical model set. And so that's when I first started putting models together, seeing what a water molecule was, what a methane molecule was. And it was pretty cool to be able to, but, you know, nobody had things to play with other than Tonka toys or something like that.$$Now, of the friends that you had at that stage, did most of them have parents who were educated like yours or were you unique in that respect?$$No, most of them were at the, educated. My best friend's father was actually a graphics artist. So he's a printer. So he did not have an advanced degree, but he was in the arts themselves. But, yeah, most of the, my friends had, their parents usually taught or else they at least had a college education.$$Do you recall having a discussion about science with your father [Amos Paul Kennedy]?$$Oh, yeah, and like I said, when we, we used to do the modeling things and stuff like that. A lot of my discussion, more of my discussions with my father were, have always been more of a philosophical nature as opposed to a scientific nature.$I'm getting ready to move on to your graduation from [University of California ]Berkeley, the PhD, but before we do that, are there any other things about that period of time that you want to talk about?$$Well, the funniest for me or the most enlightening, almost, well, two enlightening was, one of them was the, my final exam in quantum mechanics. And on the final exam in quantum mechanics, it was open everything. And we had five days to do it, sweated bullets day and night. So I finally took the exam to the guy, and I was like, I just, I did the best I can, but there's a lot of blanks here. He said, "I didn't make that exam for anybody to pass it." I said, "what?" He said, "no, I made it to check people's ego." I said, "well, you certainly did that sir" (laughter). The other thing was in a discussion with my advisor about some results I had gotten in the lab. And we were throwing ideas around, and I've forgotten exactly what it was. But he put up on the board what I thought was the stupidest thing in the world. And he just put it up there just as casually as possible. And I was like, "George, that doesn't make any sense", and I started laughing because I realized at that point that we were doing work that no one else did. And that no one knows what the answer is at that point. And it was--that's one of the things that I look for now in my students today is, when they realize that I'm not the oracle, that I don't know this thing either and that now we're sharing our ignorance in trying to figure out how to get to the next level.$$When did that first hit you, that realization that you could talk with the big boys?$$That was that. That was the point. That was when I, it was like okay. You know, there's no intimidation. This is strictly, we're just out here on our own. And so that was the one that, where--I mean there were other events that, you know, keyed me in. Like I said, throughout the years, I knew that my education was equivalent if not better than most people's education, but that was the one that really kind of said, okay, you know, there really is no God man (laughter).

Isiah M. Warner

Chemistry professor and research chemist, Isiah M. Warner was born in DeQuincy, Louisiana, on July 20, 1946 to Humphrey and Erma Warner. He developed an interest in science and mathematics early on and conducted his first experiment by drinking kerosene to see why it created light. Warner graduated as valedictorian of his class from Bunkie, Louisiana's Carver High School in 1964. Warner's interest in chemistry was ignited after participating in a summer program at Southern University in Baton Rouge during high school. He went on to earn his B.S. degree in chemistry in 1968 from the same intuition, and went to work as a technician for Battelle Northwest, a private company in the state of Washington that contracted with the Atomic Energy Commission. Warner earned his Ph.D. degree in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington in 1977.

From 1977 to 1982, Warner served as assistant professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University. He was the first African American on the chemistry faculty there. After five years, he achieved tenure and was promoted to associate professor. While at Texas A&M, he researched fluorescent spectroscopy. Warner then joined the faculty at Emory University where he was promoted to full professor in 1986. He served as the Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of chemistry from 1987 until 1992. During the 1988-89 academic year, Warner went on leave to the National Science Foundation where he served as program officer for analytical and surface chemistry. In 1992, Warner joined the faculty at Louisiana State University as the Philip W. West Professor of analytical and environmental chemistry and was promoted to chair of the chemistry department, vice-chancellor for strategic initiatives, and Boyd professor. At LSU, Warner focused his research on chiral drugs and natural drug derivatives.

Throughout his career, Warner published over 230 articles in revered journals, has given hundreds of presentations, and is the holder of five patents. In addition to his own speaking and publishing activities, Warner has chaired over thirty doctoral theses and mentored many students. Warner’s awards included the CASE Louisiana Teacher of the Year Award in 2000; the 2000 LSU Distinguished Faculty Award; and the 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring from President Clinton.

Isiah M. Warner and his wife, Della Blount Warner have three children, Isiah, Jr., Edward and Chideha.

Accession Number

A2004.227

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/5/2004

Last Name

Warner

Middle Name

M.

Schools

George Washington Carver Elementary School

George Washington Carver High School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Washington State University Tri-Cities

University of Washington

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Isiah

Birth City, State, Country

DeQuincy

HM ID

WAR07

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa; Europe

Favorite Quote

I Am Isiah Warner, And I Am A Country Boy From Bunkie, Louisiana.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/20/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baton Rouge

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Thai Food

Short Description

Chemistry professor and research chemist Isiah M. Warner (1946 - ) is the first African American vice-chancellor for strategic initiatives at Louisiana State University. He has published over 230 chemistry research articles.

Employment

Battelle Northwest

Texas A&M University

Emory University

Louisiana State University

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1738,24:3070,57:3440,63:7066,135:7436,141:8546,160:12255,184:12696,193:13074,200:13326,205:16788,254:17468,265:17740,273:18692,293:23298,337:26859,388:27591,405:27896,411:29238,441:32227,511:32471,516:35399,621:35643,626:50160,755:50640,773:54530,819:55058,828:55586,835:56202,844:61042,887:61560,896:62744,917:64714,935:65750,959:69376,1038:77105,1187:77397,1192:82634,1235:83064,1241:86464,1260:87168,1274:87680,1283:89216,1319:89792,1329:90432,1341:91072,1360:93252,1371:93956,1391:94404,1400:94980,1414:95556,1425:96004,1433:96388,1440:101679,1504:101947,1509:104493,1559:104761,1564:109250,1662:114958,1697:115402,1704:119102,1781:119768,1791:120804,1812:124430,1912:132470,1940:132750,1945:133030,1950:136687,1967:138343,2001:138964,2053:139378,2064:144260,2082:146430,2137:146710,2142:147340,2156:147970,2172:148250,2177:148740,2185:149230,2192:152070,2208:152400,2215:153060,2229:154215,2261:162135,2389:162395,2394:164085,2436:164410,2442:167400,2542:177631,2707:181039,2775:181678,2792:182033,2798:186798,2894:187046,2899:188486,2917:188814,2922:193785,2994:194676,3013:195162,3020:199762,3043:200078,3048:200947,3062:201342,3068:202290,3130:202843,3138:203475,3148:216902,3337:220520,3375$0,0:8436,228:26288,548:48929,879:53615,971:53970,977:54609,988:61993,1124:72834,1236:73199,1243:73491,1248:80499,1403:81010,1415:85901,1516:86266,1522:94729,1608:117530,2000:119502,2027:129413,2131:130491,2145:155384,2447:155870,2454:161310,2542
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Isiah Warner's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Isiah Warner shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Isiah Warner talks about his maternal ancestors

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Isiah Warner talks about his mother and grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Isiah Warner talks about his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Isiah Warner talks about his childhood in Bunkie, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Isiah Warner talks about the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Isiah Warner talks about Carver High School and Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Isiah Warner talks about his interest in chemistry in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Isiah Warner talks about the atmosphere at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Isiah Warner talks about segregation laws in high school and college athletics

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Isiah Warner talks about his chemistry professors at Southern University

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Isiah Warner talks about campus activism and avoiding the draft

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Isiah Warner recalls how he met his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Isiah Warner talks about his adjustment to an integrated environment at Battelle Northwest

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Isiah Warner talks about his graduate studies at the University of Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Isiah Warner talks about his faculty positions at Texas A&M University and Emory University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Isiah Warner explains his research in fluorescent spectroscopy

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Isiah Warner explains his research in chiral drug molecules as a faculty member at Louisiana State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Isiah Warner talks about his initiatives with chemistry students at Louisiana State University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Isiah Warner discusses African Americans in chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Isiah Warner responds to a question about entrepreneurship in chemistry

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Isiah Warner reflects on his life and shares his hopes for the black community

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Isiah Warner talks about his faculty positions at Texas A&M University and Emory University
Isiah Warner explains his research in fluorescent spectroscopy
Transcript
All right, well tell us about that. Were you one of the first blacks on that [Texas A&M] faculty?$$Oh, I was in chemistry. I was the first black ever on that faculty. And the way I ended up taking that position is the chair of the department was at a conference that I, when I was giving a lecture. And he was very impressed with my talk. Afterwards, another graduate student gave a talk, and he got stuck with a question, and I helped answer the question. So all that made him very impressed. And so he went back, said, look we've got this position open. We've got to interview this young man. He's applied for this position.$$Okay, well, how were you received there? I mean did people--did they expect you not to know as much because you're a black or what did they, how did they or did it matter to them?$$Again, I wasn't quite as aggressive as the typical person. So, for example, when I negotiated my equipment and all that, the, there was an Asian guy, who was Chinese, took a liking to me, said, "You'd better get it in writing." I said, "For what?" He said, "Just get in writing." I said, well, we shook hands, you know (laughter). He said, "Get it writing!" And sure enough, that was useful later on. But the first year, there was, a member of the National Academy comes in. He brings in two assistant professors, takes over all the space, you know. And I didn't have any space. I was sitting in someone else's office for a year, no laboratory. And finally I had to pull up this letter saying I want my equipment and finally got some space. And those two assistant professors he brought in ended up being denied tenure. And I was given tenure. And so, in the end, things worked out best for me. And if it were not for that chair, I wouldn't be in academics today. He was a big factor in my life.$$What's his name?$$His name was Arthur Martelle (ph.). He's passed away, was it last year? Yeah, he passed away last year.$$Okay.$$He built the chemistry department at Texas A&M [University, College Station, Texas] into what it is today.$$Okay, how long was it before you got tenure there at Texas A&M?$$Five years. I got early tenure, a year earlier than a typical person, mostly because other schools were trying to court me like Purdue [University, West Lafayette, Indiana] was trying to recruit me. And so they moved up my tenure early, but I didn't stay there. Once I got tenure I just moved to Emory University [Atlanta, Georgia] because the place was so large, I decided I wanted to go to a smaller school. And Texas A&M was the largest chemistry department in the world. I mean they have about eighty, full-time equivalent faculty members. So I moved to Emory University. I applied for a position at Emory University and moved there. They had about twenty faculty.$$Now, that's in Atlanta [Georgia], right?$$Right, in Atlanta.$$Now, how did you like that?$$I liked it much better, smaller department. But I found out, no matter where you go in academics, there's always politics. So, and I'd been there for ten years when LSU [Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana] started trying to recruit me actively.$$Okay, so this is like, when did you go to Emory? Was it '82 [1982]?$$Eighty-two [1982], right.$$I'm trying to calculate, okay, '82 [1982]. So you were there for ten years--$$Right.$$--until 1992?$$Right.$All right, now, when you were there, I mean, were you able to engage in any independent research or anything?$$Oh, yeah, I did at Texas A&M [University, College Station, Texas]. That's a requirement in those kinds of schools. Texas A&M, Emory [University, Atlanta, Georgia], and LSU [Louisiana State University], it's a requirement. If you're tenure tracked, you engage in research. So I've been actively involved in research from the time I was at Texas A&M.$$Okay, I'm a chemical ignoramus myself, but there are gonna be people watching this that know some chemistry probably and they wanna know what you were doing. So if you would explain it and don't worry about the terminology going over my head because (laughter).$$Okay, when I left graduate school, one of the things I developed was a new instrument for measuring fluorescent spectroscopy. Fluorescence has to do with, you shine light on a molecule, and molecules give you off a different light. Both of those lights are characteristics of the molecule, the light that's absorbed and the light that's given off. And so I developed an instrument that would measure all the light that was absorbed and given off simultaneously for all molecules at a given time. And so when I left school, I started applying that instrument, I developed another instrument similar to it and started applying it to various applications. So that was the focus of my research a lot of time, using that instrument to identify molecules. In fact, it was used, it was a video camera really that I used as a detector since the image was two dimensional. I would have a two-dimensional representation of the molecule, and it would be the light that was given off as a function of exciting wavelength and emitting wavelength. And that image could be plotted, you know, as a, just as a television camera image in two dimensions. And so I could use, apply that to identifying molecules and pollutants like poly-aromatic hydrocarbons and different kinds of molecules. That's what I, that was my first area of research.$$Okay, and that's at Texas A&M?$$That's Texas A&M. And I continued that until I, after I got to Emory also, developing new kinds of applications, identifying bacteria, using this instrumentation and fingerprinting, phytoplankton in the ocean. You know, there were all kinds of applications that I've developed over the years for this technique.$$Now, what's a phytoplankton?$$Well, plants that are growing out in the ocean. So that was an oceanography application that we had.

William Lester, Jr.

Distinguished theoretical chemist William Lester, Jr., was born on April 24, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois, where he attended all-black elementary schools due to racial segregation. After World War II, Lester's family moved and he attended a formerly all-white high school; he went on to receive his B.S. degree in 1958, and his master’s degree in chemistry in 1959 from the University of Chicago. Lester obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1964.

Lester developed his interest in science at an early age; during his senior year in high school, he used his typing skills to obtain a part-time job in the physics department of the University of Chicago, which gave him a chance to explore the potential of a future career in the sciences. Entering the University of Chicago on a history scholarship, Lester set scoring records in basketball, two of which were still standing after forty-eight years. While at Catholic University, Lester worked at the National Bureau of Standards as a member of the scientific staff; his work at the Bureau helped him to meet the requirements for his doctoral dissertation on the calculation of molecular properties. Lester obtained a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he worked on the molecular collision theory. The IBM Corporation then hired Lester to work at its research laboratory in San Jose, California. Later, as the director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry, Lester organized and led the first unified effort in computational chemistry in the United States.

Lester later joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley as a professor of chemistry, where his research focused on the theoretical studies of the electronic structure of molecules. Lester's efforts at Berkeley extended the powerful quantum Monte Carlo method to a wider range of chemical problems. In 2002, Lester became the president of the Pac-10 Conference.

Throughout his career, Lester published over 200 papers in his field, and was awarded numerous honors for his research and teaching. Lester held memberships in several professional organizations including the American Physical and Chemical Societies, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was also elected a fellow of the APS, ACS, and AAAS. In addition to his professional activities, Lester remained committed to science education and sparking an interest in pursuing science careers in minority students.

Lester and his wife, Rochelle (deceased), raised two children: son, William A. Lester, III, and daughter, Allison L. Ramsey.

Accession Number

A2004.043

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/7/2004

10/13/2005

11/7/2012

Last Name

Lester

Middle Name

A.

Schools

McCosh Elementary School

Frank L. Gillespie Technology Magnet Cluster School

Calumet Career Prep Academy High School

University of Chicago

Washington University in St Louis

Catholic University of America

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LES01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Depends on audience - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Allstate honoree

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean, Maui, Barbados

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/24/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Red Beans, Rice, Steak, Mexican Food

Short Description

Chemistry professor and chemist William Lester, Jr. (1937 - ) was the former director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry. He later joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley as Professor of Chemistry, and published over 200 papers in his field.

Employment

National Bureau of Standards (NBS)

IBM

National Resource for Computation in Chemistry

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

University of California, Berkeley

University of Wisconsin, Madison

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lester's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Lester shares his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Lester discusses his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Lester shares his parents' stories of their childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his extended family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his sisters and their families

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Lester describes his childhood homelife

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William Lester describes Chicago in the 1940s

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William Lester talks about his elementary school experiences in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his family's history in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his primary school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Lester discusses his interests as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Lester talks about working at the post office while studying at the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Lester describes the curriculum at the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his starring college basketball career at the University of Chicago, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Lester describes earning his M.S. degree from the University of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Lester talks about his starring college basketball career at the University of Chicago, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about his master's studies at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Lester describes his graduate school experience at Washington University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his move to Washington, D.C. to attend The Catholic University of America

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Lester describes his work at the National Bureau of Standards

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Lester describes his courses at The Catholic University of America

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Lester describes correlated molecular orbital theory

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Lester discusses his work ethic

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his options for postdoctoral fellowships

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William Lester reflects on the Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - William Lester talks about the work environment of the University of Wisconsin--Madison

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - William Lester discusses affirmative action

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his photographs

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about his decision to work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Lester describes the close-coupling problem

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Lester discusses the work environment at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Lester recalls his move to California

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Lester recalls living in Madison, Wisconsin

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Lester describes the benefits of working at IBM

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Lester describes San Jose, California

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - William Lester describes his career at IBM

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - William Lester recalls serving as director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - William Lester discusses building the NRCC program

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - William Lester recalls the end of the NRCC and the beginning of his career at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Lester discusses the Quantum Monte Carlo method, part 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - William Lester discusses the Quantum Monte Carlo method, part 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his work environment at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - William Lester talks about the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers [NOBCChE]

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - William Lester discusses his role as athletics representative for the PAC 10

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his STEM professional affiliations

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his travels

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - William Lester discusses the role of his research in spectroscopy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - William Lester discusses the role of his research in understanding photosynthesis

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about computer programming in computational chemistry

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - William Lester shares his hobbies and other interests

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - William Lester talks about his wife, Rochelle Lester

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - William Lester discusses the success of his son, William A. Lester III

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about his daughter, Alison Ramsey

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about his cousin, William A.J. Ross

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - William Lester provides a brief summary of his family history

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about seeking equal representation for African Americans in science

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his organizational affiliations

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - William Lester shares his goals for his future

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - William Lester discusses enjoying his career as a scientist

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about education in the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about how he wants to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about generating random numbers in the Monte Carlo Method

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of William Lester's interview

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - William Lester describes the history of the development of the quantum Monte Carlo method

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - William Lester describes his experience with the quantum Monte Carlo method

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - William Lester describes his transition into using the quantum Monte technique and his current work

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - William Lester describes his work with graphene

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about his life after retirement and his health

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about being featured in the 2004 Allstate calendar

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - William Lester talks about playing basketball

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - William Lester describes his decision to attend the University of Chicago and his basketball career there

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - William Lester describes the accomplished physicists he was exposed to at the University of Chicago

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - William Lester describes what influenced his decision to attend Washington University in St. Louis

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - William Lester describes balancing family life with graduate school

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - William Lester talks about the African American scientists who trained at Catholic University

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - William Lester talks about fellow basketball players at the University of Chicago

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - William Lester describes receiving the INCITE Award in 2004

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - William Lester describes his visits to Europe for work

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - William Lester describes his awards and honors

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - William Lester talks about NOBCChE and Isiah Warner

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - William Lester talks about his seventieth birthday celebration at the University of California, Berkeley

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - William Lester talks about receiving the Stanley C. Israel Award and reflects upon his career in chemistry

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - William Lester reflects upon his legacy and talks about current politics

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - William Lester describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - William Lester describes his involvement with The HistoryMakers' ScienceMakers Program

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - William Lester talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

6$5

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
William Lester discusses the Quantum Monte Carlo method, part 1
William Lester describes his career at IBM
Transcript
So you've been accepted to start your research at Berkeley (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yes, yes. I was appointed professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley], and well, what's to say except that--oh, I should back up a little bit because the nature of my research changed dramatically while I was director of the National Resource for Computation in Chemistry. One of the people I had hired was a physicist, condensed matter physicist, by the name of David Ceperley. And David came into my office one day indicating he had a 100 percent of the correlation energy for the electron gas. Now, the correlation energy is the difference between the theoretically, the theoretical exact energy for the system in energy of the system in what we call the mean field approximation, that is, an approximation in which you consider that the system is one in which a given electron is in the field of the N minus one other electrons. And each electron is viewed in this way. Well, anyway, this leads to well-known approximations in the electronic structure for molecules, it's called the Hartree Fock approximation, H-A-R-T-R-E-E, named after a fellow by the name of Hartree, who was English and Fock, F-O-C-K, who was a Russian. And I won't say what the contributions of each of them was. It gets a little bit technical for lay people in that respect, but simply to say that a 100 percent of the correlation energy was really quite an achievement. But it was foreign model system and electron gas is one way of considering a solid, in which you don't treat the solid in its explicit detail, but basically electrons in this see our gas, electron gas model. So I said, "Well, what about atoms and molecules, something which I understand." He said, "Well, really I'm a condensed matter physicist," and to some extent was not so keen about pursuing that but would do in collaboration. And this was done. I hired a fellow in the last year of NRCC [National Resource for Computation in Chemistry] by the name of Peter [J.] Reynolds who came from the East Coast. He had been a research professor at Boston University but had gotten his degree, his undergraduate degree, from Berkeley. He was a Berkeley product, a very brilliant young man, who wanted to come back to the West Coast. And so as a consequence, this led to our first publication of Quantum Monte Carlo for Molecules, which was published in or appeared in 1982. NRCC closed in 1981 and based upon the quality of results coming out of that study, I--and having done electronic structure for my Ph.D., this was really fascinating stuff. I mean the results were as good as the state of the art by any other technique that people were pursuing who had been engaged in electronic structure of molecules up to that point. And so I changed my research direction when I came on the faculty, continued to pursue Quantum Monte Carlo for molecules. And we began to build and extend the capability of the technique for larger systems, for higher accuracy, for understanding what was needed to improve upon results that had been obtained at that time. I should add that one aspect in terms of Ceperley that I hadn't mentioned before, and that is the idea of hiring him was the notion of a fellow by the name of Berni [Julian] Alder. And Bernie Alder is a scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [Livermore, California], internationally recognized and respected for his work originally in classical Monte Carlo. Quantum Monte Carlo means that one is taking into account the fermion character of electrons and nuclei. By that I mean that--$$Fermion?$$The fermion is a system which has spin, and that indeed, you can have regions of both positive and negative phase, which means that, in terms of Monte Carlo simulations, what you are doing classically is adding up numbers of the same sign to get a mean and an uncertainty associated with the evaluation. With Quantum Monte Carlo because the system, the function can have both positive and negative phases, you have to find a way so that you end up adding up numbers of the same sign in order to get a mean and an uncertainty. And without going into detail, it is possible to do that in the way that, something we call a fixed node approximation, which says that--well, I don't, I don't want to go into that. That's another half hour or so just in terms of the general ideas of Quantum Monte Carlo in its simplest manifestation.$But backing up a bit, through the early '70s [1970s], I had achieved somewhat of a positive reputation and I was viewed to be on the fast track for advancement in management. It was suggested that I go and spend time on the technical planning staff with the vice president and director of research, Ralph [E.] Gomory. This I did. And this meant going, moving to actually White Plains, New York for the year. That laboratory is located in Yorktown Heights, New York, it's the T.J. Watson Research Center. And that was a very interesting experience. I was on a committee or--which involved other young people, and it was clear to me that these folks really were, wanted to pursue advanced management in IBM, and it became clear to me that really I preferred my research to rising in the system at IBM per se. It reached an interesting point when I returned to San Jose because it was suggested that things didn't work well for me in Yorktown. I said, "Oh, I don't understand that." Well, then as I reflected on it, very possibly in terms of what you did while you were there and so on and how people spent their time, and so the commitment to the IBM administrative management direction was not fully there, that that's probably the basis upon which this decision or this view was held. Now I should back up and say also that prior to this, some two or three years earlier, I was selected to participate in a career development workshop. And the guys who ran this said, you know, in effect, you know, they're looking at you for management. I said, "Oh, yeah, really?" And so they went and volunteered that, "Yeah, we can shade it one way or the other." I said, "Really, at this point in my career, I really want to pursue my science as opposed to management." And they said, "Well, okay, we'll indicate that in the report," which they did, that, although Bill has, you know, potential for being a successful manager, he really should be allowed to pursue his research at this time. So there's this dilemma that confronts one, I think, early on in the management scheme in an institution of that type at that time, since things are very different now in terms of IBM and the parallel research laboratory that existed at the time, Bell Labs, in the sense that there is considerably less freedom. There's more pointed research towards the mission of the company than there was at the time I was there. So they're very different institutions in that sense.