Scientists’ photos of their colleagues, an historical picture surfaces, & a mathematician’s legacy


Photo of Josephine Silone Yates

This is Josephine Silone Yates in around 1885. She was the first African-American women to head a college science department and the first to become a full professor. Silone Yates was an activist. And that’s why this photo of her surfaced recently. The Library of Congress digitized and released 19th century photos of black women activists – and this photo from a postcard was one of them. (Thanks to @WikiWomenInRed for spreading the word!)

As well as adding this newly available photo to Silone Yates’ Wikipedia page, I added this one that was published with her obituary in 1912. That’s in the new images slide show below.

This week also showed the value of asking senior scientists if they have photos they took of noted and groundbreaking scientists. Raymond L. Johnson went from a segregated two-room school in Texas in the 1940s to a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2015. Along the way, he broke the color barrier after a lawsuit to attend Rice University, and was the first African-American mathematics professor at the University of Maryland. He put me in touch with Lenore Blum, computer scientist professor at Carnegie Mellon, who had taken photos at a 1995 gathering of African-American mathematicians. The first two photos from this treasure trove are below: Raymond Johnson and Fern Hunt. Know a senior scientist who’s always taking photos at conferences? Ask them who they have in their collection!

And another Twitter lucky break: hunting for a photo of one of the first African-American women to get a PhD in mathematics, professor and provost Thyrsa Frazier Svager (1930-1999), turned up a little tribute to her on Twitter by the Dayton Federation. Take a few moments to watch it – she’s amazing! She and her physics professor husband, Aleksandar Svager, lived on one of their salaries so they could invest the other to build a legacy for  a scholarship fund for African-Americans and other minorities to study mathematics or physics.



They replied to a tweet, got permission from her husband to put the photo in the public domain, and I wrote a Wikipedia page about her amazing life.

More to check out since the last post:

New images slideshow


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Josephine Silone Yates, Raymond L. Johnson, and Thyrsa Frazier-Svager are all discussed above. The two others in the slideshow:

Fern Hunt (b. 1948) is a mathematician who has worked on problems at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as her own research and teaching.

Nicole King (b. 1970) is a biologist, MacArthur Fellow, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. She has a lab at University of California, Berkeley – and she developed and maintains a list of resources for people who want to increase diversity at science conferences: let her know if you have resources to add.

Featured scientists needing images

Some people you may not know! Inspired? You could help by emailing the library or media office at any of the institutions they were associated with, to try to get a photo that could be used on Wikipedia! (More on what Wikipedia needs here.)



New scientists’ pages on Wikipedia

Ritu Karidhal had one of the new pages on Wikipedia. Some other new pages since the last post – all but the first have no photos.

Núria López-Bigas is a Spanish biologist who leads the Biomedical Genomics Research Group in Barcelona, investigating cancer genomes using computation.

Ampar Acker-Palmer (b. 1968) is a cell biologist and neuroscientist, who has worked on the similarities in nerve and blood vessel development. She is from Spain, working in Germany.

Rebecca Bace (1955-2017) was a Japanese-American computer scientist and pioneer in intrusion detection who worked at the NSA and Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as industry and academia.

Mónica Tarducci is an anthropologist and feminist activist in Buenos Aires, who has described herself as a “secular missionary, spreading knowledge through different contexts”.

Other faces slideshow

While looking for scientists’ faces, you come across others who are missing from Wikipedia that need to be added. This time, it led to a new Wikipedia page for an African-American suffragist and anti-lynching activist.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An amazing couple: Nellie Griswold Francis (1874-1969) was an African-American suffragist, who not only helped achieve women’s right to vote in Minnesota, but initiated, drafted, and lobbied for an anti-lynching bill that was signed into law in 1921. Later, she and her husband were the target of a Ku Klux Klan campaign when they bought a house in a white neighborhood – with death threats and crosses burned on the front lawn. She was an amateur singer and actor, too, including writing at least one play.

Her husband, William T. Francis (1870-1929), was a successful lawyer who also won several racial discrimination battles, was active politically – and helped with the anti-lynching bill. He was Minnesota’s first black diplomat, appointed Consul-General in Liberia in 1927. He died there of yellow fever in 1929 – but an investigation he did into forced labor and slavery set off a chain of events that brought down the Liberian president and vice-president.

William Sidney Pittman (1875-1958) was an African-American architect, the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, and later published a weekly newspaper.

And Jennie Dean was born into slavery in 1848: she became a suffragist, and founded churches, Sunday schools, and the only higher education institution open to African-Americans at the time.

Inspired? Share some of these pictures and stories, and read about how you can help find missing scientists’ faces. And a big thank you to Raymond Johnson, Lenore Blum, Wiki Women in Red, the Dayton Foundation, and Alexsandar Svager for their help!

Hilda Bastian





A rare picture from one of the earliest groundbreakers, mathematicians, and other un-missable faces


This is a rare picture of Ruth Ella Moore, who was born in 1903. Dr Moore was the first African-American woman to gain a PhD in a natural science, when Ohio State University awarded her a PhD in bacteriology for her work on TB in 1933. She was professor and head of the department of bacteriology at Howard University.

This photo was in an article on a meeting, in the American Society of Microbiology’s (ASM) magazine. A very big thank you to the team at ASM, who leapt into action in response to a @MissingSciFaces tweet: soon her Wikipedia page had this pic.

More to check out since the last post:

New images slideshow

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wesley Anthony Brown (1927-2012) was the first African-American graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, in 1949.

Ruth Ella Moore (1903-1994) (featured above).

Cynthia Margaret Pine (b. 1953 in Guyana), dentistry researcher and educator, and the first woman dean of a dentistry school in the UK.

Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969), the first African-American to gain a PhD in mathematics, from Cornell University in 1925.

Abdulalim A. Shabazz (1927-2014), earned the second PhD by an African-American in mathematics from Cornell University – in 1955.

Featured scientists needing images

Some people you may not know! Inspired? You could help by emailing the libraries at any of the institutions they were associated with, to try to get a photo that could be used on Wikipedia! (More on what Wikipedia needs here.)

New scientists’ pages on Wikipedia

First new page in the project this month was Mary Elliott Hill (1907-1969), likely the first African-American woman to be gain a master’s degree in chemistry, Virginia State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Kentucky.

This month is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month. So expect to see plenty of new pages and photos for African-American mathematicians this month. Two new pages for African-American women in mathematic:

George Caldwell Smith (1909-1961) was one of the first African-American women to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics (in Kansas), going on to add a master’s from the University of Chicago and teach in several universities, become head of the Spelman College department of mathematics. Later in life, she studied for her PhD: but she died soon after defending her dissertation. (Her PhD was conferred posthumously in 1961.)

Louise Nixon Sutton (1925-2006) was the first African-American woman to be awarded a PhD in mathematics from New York University – in 1962.

Other new pages on Wikipedia that appeared since the last post:

Diane Powell Murray is an African-American software engineer and program manager, with a bachelor’s in mathematics from Spelman College and a master’s from Cornell (in 1976). (No photo.)

Talithia Williams is a mathematician and statistician, and the first tenured African-American woman at Mudd College. She got her bachelor’s from Spelman College, and master’s and PhD (2008) from Rice University. (No photo.)

Shihoko Ishii is professor of mathematics at the University of Tokyo. She gained her PhD from Tokyo Metropolitan University in 1983. (No photo.)

Mei-Chu Chang is a mathematician who got a bachelor’s degree National Taiwan University, and her PhD from University of California Berkeley in 1982. (No photo.)

Minerva Cordero is Puerto Rican, and a professor of mathematics at the University of Texas Arlington. She gained a PhD at the University of Iowa in 1989. (No photo.)

Other faces slideshow

While looking for scientists’ faces, some other faces come up that are hard to leave behind. The line has to be drawn somewhere, with so many scientists still waiting – sometimes it’s hard to know where the line is, though. And some categories are emerging that need to be picked up when serendipity puts them in my path: notable people in civil rights, indigenous people, and African-American women academics. Here’s a batch from the last week or so.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mary Ellen Britton (1855-1925), African-American physician, educator, suffragist, journalist, and civil rights activist.

James Nabrit (1932-2013), African-American civil rights lawyer – his Wikipedia page had no photo. Here he is seen (far right) on the Supreme Court steps with George Hayes and Thurgood Marshall after the win in Brown v. Board of Education: the ruling that segregation in education violates the U.S. Constitution.

C. Virginia Fields (b. 1945), African-American woman who studied sociology, social worker and civil rights activist-turned-politician, who now leads the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

Katherine Gottlieb, indigenous woman, president and CEO of an Alaskan Native Healthcare Organization, and a MacArthur Fellow.

Pilar Thomas, tribal affairs lawyer and member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Arizona. She served in various government agencies, participating in the U.S. adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, tribal land leasing reforms, and water rights.

Hilda Bastian

A forgotten pioneering African-American physicist & correcting the record

Carolyn Beatrice Parker

This is Carolyn Beatrice Parker (b 1917). Up to now, people said the first African-American woman physicist who reached PhD level was in the 70s. But Carolyn Beatrice Parker researched polonium on the Dayton Project, part of WWII’s Manhattan project. She completed her physics PhD at MIT in the early 50s, but leukemia, likely polonium-induced, stopped her being able to defend it. She died at 47. Read more about her in her new Wikipedia page.

Her story highlighted another error in the record: she was related to marine biologist Joan Murrell Owens, another pioneering African-American woman scientist. She was credited with being the first to get a PhD in geology, in 1984: but that was likely Marguerite Thomas Williams in 1941.

The biggest shock, though: the widely credited first African-American woman to get a PhD in botany, Jesse Jarue Mark, turned out not to be a woman. Bryan Clark found this out when he tracked down a photo of JJ Mark. (Many years ago, Jesse’s name became Jessie, and the error spread for decades.) Thanks, Bryan!

A different Jessie, Jessie Isabelle Price, was the subject of a new set of errors – this time started by Buzzfeed. Got it corrected when Danielle Lee weighed in on Twitter – thanks Danielle!

More to check out since the last post:

New images slideshow


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Yvonne Young Clark (b 1929) was the first African-American woman to get a degree in mechanical engineering, in 1951. She helped design the containers that Neil Armstrong used to bring the first moon rocks to earth!

Cheryl Hayashi is a Hawaii-born biologist and MacArthur Fellow, who specialized in the genetic structure of spider silk. She is now professor and director of comparative biology research at the American Museum of Natural History.

Carolyn Beatrice Parker (1917 – 1966) – physicist from above.

Deborah Shiu-Ian Jin (b 1968) is another physicist who died young – at 47 from cancer. She was another MacArthur Fellow and a pioneer in a type of quantum chemistry.

Janie L. Miles (b 1958) was the first African-American woman to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy. She earned a B.S. in general engineering in 1980: she was the only African-American in the first class of women after the prohibition against women students was lifted.

Featured scientists needing images

Some people you may not know! Inspired? You could help by emailing the libraries at any of the institutions they were associated with, to try to get a photo that could be used on Wikipedia? (More on what Wikipedia needs here.)

More about Betty Harris (b 1940) on Wikipedia.


A. Oveta Fuller (b 1955) on Wikipedia.


Lonnie Standifer (1926 – 1996) on Wikipedia.


New pages on Wikipedia

Wikipedia pages for Carolyn Parker, Lonnie Standifer, and Janie L. Mines were all new. Some highlights from other new Wikipedia pages for scientists from under-represented groups:

  • Vera Mae Green (1928 – 1982) – African-American anthropologist who worked on methods for studying African-American communities. (She needs a photo, too!)
  • Olabisi Ugbebor (b 1951) is the first female professor of mathematics in Nigeria – her page is just a mention though. Any takers for expanding and tracking down a photo?
  • Harriette Pipes McAdoo (1940 – 2009) – another pioneering African-American anthropologist.


Hilda Bastian