Black Scholars and Science


In "At the Crossroads of History: America's Best Black Colleges" [October 8], the importance of the historically black colleges and universities in the early production of black scientists was overlooked.

Among U.S.-born blacks who earned Ph.D.'s in science fields between 1876 and 1969, data are available on 587 of the estimated total of 650 for this period. Edward A. Bouchet, the first black to earn a science doctorate, did all of his work at Yale and received a Ph.D. in physics in 1876. The second in this field, Elmer S. Imes, was an hbcu graduate who received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1918. The first U.S.-born black doctorate recipient in geology, Marguerite Thomas Williams, was an HBCU graduate, as was the first black female chemical engineering doctorate recipient, Lilia Abron. The first black president of the American Chemical Society was HBCU graduate Henry A. Hill. Some 12 HBCU graduates have served as chairs of academic science departments in non-HBCU institutions.

James M. Jay, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus
Department of Biological Sciences
Wayne State University