Good Morning Obots!
Ever wonder about the study of life under water? Very interesting and very rare to find people of color in this field. I will highlight a few pioneers and current stars in this very intriguing field of study.
For almost 40 years after the end of World War II, the work of Ernest Everett Just, an African-American biologist known for his studies of fertilization and early development in marine invertebrates, lay forgotten, buried in the scientific literature. Then, in 1983, Kenneth R. Manning, a historian of science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a prize-winning biography titled “Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just” . Stephen Jay Gould favorably reviewed Manning’s book and wrote a column in the magazine Natural History about Just. Since then, a number of events have taken place that have brought increased attention to Just: A stamp honoring him was issued; symposia were held in his honor, the most recent at Howard University in 2008; and, in 2009, a special issue of the journal Molecular Reproduction and Development dedicated to Just was published.
Ernest Everett Just (August 14, 1883 – October 27, 1941) was a pioneering African American biologist, academic and science writer. Just’s primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. In his work within marine biology, cytology and parthenogenesis, he advocated the study of whole cells under normal conditions, rather than simply breaking them apart in a laboratory setting.
Just was born in South Carolina to Charles Frazier Just Jr. and Mary Matthews Just on 14 August 1883. His father and grandfather, Charles Sr., were dock builders. When Ernest was four years old, both his father and grandfather died. Just’s mother became the sole supporter of Just, his younger brother, and his younger sister. Mary Matthews Just taught at an African American school in Charleston to support her family. During the summer, she worked in the phosphate mines on James Island. Noticing that there was much vacant land near the island, Mary persuaded several black families to move there to farm. The town they founded, now incorporated in the West Ashley area of Charleston, was eventually named Maryville in her honor.
Hoping Just would become a teacher, his mother sent him to an all-black boarding school in Orangeburg, South Carolina at the age of thirteen. Believing that schools for blacks in the south were inferior, Just and his mother thought it better for him to go north. At the age of sixteen, Just enrolled at a Meriden, New Hampshire college-preparatory high school, Kimball Union Academy. Tragedy struck during Just’s second year at Kimball when his mother died. Despite this hardship, Just completed the four-year program in only three years, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated in 1903 with the highest grades in his class.
On November 17, 1911, Ernest assisted three Howard students , in establishing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.