Early African-American & hispanic women biologists, a theoretical physicist & a mathematician in politics

There weren’t many African-American women biologists in the 1940s. James Jay found only 3 who earned PhDs by 1969 – another 14 earned PhDs in zoology. One of them was almost certainly Mary Logan Reddick, a neuroembryologist who earned a PhD in 1942 from Radcliffe College, the women’s Harvard back then. She became a full professor at the University of Atlanta, until she died at 51. Reddick also studied at Cambridge University on a fellowship about 10 years after her doctorate.

Alberta Jones Seaton got her PhD in zoology in Belgium in 1949. She and her husband went to Europe to study to avoid the racial barriers in the US. They got involved in African independence movements and moved to Africa. She continued with her academic and science career in biology and embryology in several countries, as he became a prominent lawyer and then jurist.

The images for Mary Reddick and Alberta Seaton are copyright, so their pictures aren’t included in the slideshows here. But they’re now on their Wikipedia pages under “fair use”.

Sarah Stewart (1905-1976) got her biology PhD in 1944. She was a ground-breaking Mexican-American microbiologist who was “the first to show that cancer-causing viruses can spread from animal to animal. She and Bernice Eddy co-discovered the first polyoma virus, and Stewart-Eddy polyoma virus is named after them”. Her photo is below.

The photo (below) of Canadian theoretical physicist, Helen Freedhoff, was generously shared by her son, Yoni Freedhoff (thanks, Yoni!). Helen Freedhoff died suddenly and unexpectedly in June. Born in 1940, she was the first woman appointed as professor of physics at York University, and likely the only woman to be a professor of theoretical physics in Canada at the time.


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Featured scientist needing an image



New scientists’ pages on Wikipedia

Some more scientists Wikipedians have added:

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“Lady Research Scientist”…so 1950s! Betty Collette (1930-1917) was on the cover of Jet magazine in 1958. She was a veterinary pathologist from North Carolina who earned a PhD in microbiology, studied hypertension in animals, and became a professor at Howard University.

Maristela Svampa (b 1961) is a sociologist from Argentina. She earned her PhD in Paris and is a professor at the National University of La Plata.

Doris Ying Tsao is a professor at Caltech: she pioneered a use of fMRI and discovered a process by which primates recognize faces.

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The indomitable Eqbal Dauqan (b 1981) is a biochemist from Yemen who became a refugee when her university was bombed and members of her family were killed. The International Education-Scholar Rescue Fund helped her settle as a professor in Malaysia. She won a prize for studies on antioxidants in vegetable oils.

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This is Blaženka Divjak (b 1967): she is a mathematician recently appointed Minister of Science, Education and Sports in Croatia. She was a professor who published dozens of papers and 7 books, including textbooks.

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While looking for scientists’ faces, you come across others who are missing from Wikipedia that need to be added. Lately, they included:

W.E. King died in 1919: he founded the Dallas Express in 1892, a weekly newspaper covering black news, billed as “The South’s Oldest and Largest Negro Newspaper”.

In 1919, Georgia Ann Robinson became the first African-American policewoman appointed to the LAPD – and she was probably one of the first two in the US. A long-timed community activist, she also started a women’s shelter – and left the police force after being blinded in the line of duty.

Alexander Walters (1958-1917) was born in slavery just before the Civil War, who became a civil rights activist and bishop.

Spread the word! Read and share more stories – and check out “How to Help” if you would like to add images and stories to Wikipedia.

Hilda Bastian


A story nearly lost, an entomologist, a child prodigy and more



Harriet Marble‘s story was nearly lost. She doesn’t get a mention on this historical marker – even though she developed this medical and pharmacy center:




In 2009, though, an electrician doing work at her former home found some of her belongings in the attic. The building’s owner, Jim McKeighen, got curious – there was correspondence between Marble and Madame C.J. Walker, the first African-American woman to become a millionaire. I came across a newspaper story of what he found, when I was trying to find any trace of Marble after reading a small biographical entry for her in an old book.

Marble was born in 1885, and she was an early African-American woman pharmacist. She became a very successful businesswoman in Kentucky, and was served as Vice President of the National Medical Association. Check out her Wikipedia page – there’s not much to be found out about her on the internet, but there’s enough to know she led a fascinating life! I couldn’t find a photo – I hope someone does some digging and finds one.

A second new scientist added to Wikipedia this round is a Canadian-born, African-American entomologist, Jessica Ware. I first read about Ware in the terrific, Memoirs of Black Entomologists, and you might have seen her in the media – she was a featured scientist at the D.C. March for Science. She is an expert in dragonflies and has done highly cited work on phylogenomics of insect evolution. People from her lab responded to the request for a photo – thanks, Ware Lab!

In other news, Alma Levant Hayden, likely the first African-American FDA scientist, was featured for a day on the Wikipedia main page (here’s the screenshot). Her Wikipedia page got nearly 12,000 views that day, and nearly 6,000 the day after! Which was enough for her to make the Wikipedia “Did you know?” page view leaders’ list for June 2017.

And there’s more to check out since the last post.

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Hilyard Robinson (1899-1986), architect and engineer, who was influenced by his time in Europe – first as a soldier in World War I, then studying there, including Bauhaus style. Among his notable work is designing the Langston Terrace Dwellings, as part of FDR’s social works projects.

Juanita Merchant is a physiologist and professor at the University of Michigan, who has contributed to understanding the stomach’s response to chronic inflammation.

Jessica Ware – entomologist, discussed above.

Anne-Marie Imafidon (b. 1990), a mathematics, computing, and languages child prodigy,  entered Oxford University at age 15, becoming its youngest-ever master’s degree graduate at 19. She launched, and is CEO of, Stemettes, an English social enterprise encouraging young girls’ interest in STEM careers.


Featured scientist needing an image


New scientists’ pages on Wikipedia

Some more scientists Wikipedians have added:

Sheila Miyoshi Jager (b. 1963) is an anthropologist and professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College.

Malado Kaba (b. 1971) is an economist who is finance minister in Guinea. (Needs a photo.)

Pilai Poonswad (b. 1946) is an ornithologist and biologist, and professor at Mahidol University, Thailand. She recruited poachers to help conserve declining hornbills and their forest habitat. (Her page needs a photo, too.)

Cecilia Lo studies congenital heart defects. She’s a professor and chair of the Developmental Biology Department at the University of Pittsburgh. (Photo needed.)

Maria Fernanda Botelho, born in Portugal, is a mathematician and professor at the University of Texas. (Her page needs a photo.)

Bridget Terry Long is an African-American economist and professor at Harvard, and former chair of the National Board of Education Science. (Her page needs a photo, too.)

Sian Proctor is an African-American geologist, science communicator and educator, who almost made it into NASA’s astronaut program.


Other faces slideshow


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While looking for scientists’ faces, you come across others who are missing from Wikipedia that need to be added. Lately, they included:

Virginia Randolph (1870-1958), her parents had been enslaved – she was born 9 years after the end of the Civil War. Randolph had an extraordinary career as an innovative educator, “creating a successful formula based on practicality, creativity, and involvement of parents and community”.

Richard Theodore Greener (1844-1922), was the first African-American graduate at Harvard and dean of its School of Law, who became a diplomat, serving in Russia during the Russo-Japanese war.

Charlotte Louise Bridges Forten Grimké (1837-1914), anti-slavery activist, poet, and educator, from a prominent African-American family. During the Civil War, she was present when the all-Black 54th Regiment stormed Fort Wagner. Grimké participated in her minister husband’s work, and chronicled her life and times.

J. Vance Lewis (?-1925) was enslaved, freed as a result of the Emancipation when he was about 10. He became a lawyer, admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. Lewis wrote an autobiography.

Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923) was one of the most famous African-Americans of her time. She was an educator, orator, civil rights and anti-lynching activist, suffragist, and reformer. Talbert graduated from Oberlin College, the only African-American student there at the time. She was one of the founders, along with W.E.B. DuBois, of the Niagara Movement, a pioneering civil rights group.

Edward Elder Cooper (1859-1908), born into slavery, became one of the first African-American publishers, publishing the first illustrated black newspaper in the U.S., the Indianapolis Freeman and later the DC paper, The Colored American.

Inspired? Read and share stories – and check out “How to Help” if you would like to add images and stories to Wikipedia.

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:

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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.

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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 plutonium on the Dayton Project, part of WWII’s Manhattan project. She completed her physics PhD at MIT in the early 50s, but leukemia, likely plutonium-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:

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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