Oil, Hormones, and Dolls

This week has been a challenge to try and understand all this science. It makes me appreciate science-minded people all the more, and thank you to all who become scientists, chemists, physicists, doctors, etc.

Have a great Wednesday! ‘Till next time!

1. Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916)


Alice Augusta Ball was born on July 24, 1892 to a middle-class/upper-middle-class family in Seattle, Washington. Her father was a newspaper editor, photographer and lawyer, and her grandfather, James Ball, Sr., was a famous photographer and one of the first African Americans in the US to learn to daguerreotype. The family moved to Hawai’i in 1903 but when James Ball, Sr. died in 1904, the family moved back to Seattle in 1905. Ball graduated high school in 1910 and went on to study chemistry at the University of Washington earning a BA in pharmaceutical chemistry and pharmacy. She returned to Hawai’i to pursue a master’s degree in chemistry and, in 1915, became the first woman and first African American to graduate with a master’s degree from the University of Hawai’i. She is most known for developing isolating particular compounds in chaulmoogra oil so that they could be injected in patients suffering from leprosy. It became the preferred treatment until the 1940s when drugs were developed. Ball died at a young age; she was 24, and the cause of death is not known. There’s been some suggestion that she died of chlorine poisoning that occurred while teaching; however, her original death certificate was altered and now gives the cause of death as tuberculosis. The University of Hawai’i didn’t recognize her work until 2000 when it finally honored her by dedicating a plaque to her on the school’s lone chaulmoogra tree. Also, the Lieutenant Governor of Hawai’i, Mazie Hirono, declared February 29 as “Alice Ball Day.” (For more information, please visit here.)

Here’s what the fruit of the chaulmoogra tree looks like. The oil was extracted from the fruit to treat leprosy.


2. Percy Lavon Julian (1899-1975)


Percy Lavon Julian was born on April 11, 1899 in Montgomery, AL and attended school through 8th grade where he wasn’t allowed to continue his education because he was black. But he still applied and got in to DePauw University in Greencastle, IN, having to take high school level classes in the evening to catch up to his peers. He graduated first in his class with honors. He was able to get a master’s degree from Harvard University but wasn’t allowed to pursue a doctorate. He would get his PhD at the University of Vienna in Austria in 1931 and would then return to DePauw to teach. In 1935 he synthesized a drug treatment for glaucoma from the calabar bean which would bring him international fame; however, DePauw still wouldn’t hire him as a full professor because of his race. He turned to apply for jobs in chemical companies but was repeatedly turned down once they discovered he was black. Eventually he landed a position at Glidden Company as their lab director. There he invented Aero-Foam, a product that uses soy protein to put out and gas fires. Aero-Foam was widely used during WWII. During this time he also discovered how to synthesize progesterone and testosterone hormones, as well as synthesized cortisone which would be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Upon leaving Glidden in 1953, he established his own laboratory, Julian Laboratories, in 1954, selling it in 1961 and become one of the first black millionaires. After Julian Laboratories, he established Julian Research Institute and ran the non-profit for the rest of his life. He died of liver cancer on April 19, 1975 and is considered to be one of the most influential chemists in US history. (For more information, please visit here.)

Here is Julian in his laboratory:


3. Mamie Clark (1917-1983)

Mamie Phipps Clark was born in Hot Springs, AR whose family encouraged education. She entered Howard University as a physics and math major but her future husband and partner, Kenneth Clark, convinced her to switch to psychology. She and her husband/partner are most known for the psychological experiments with children using dolls to understand children’s self-perception as related to race. Their studies found contrasts among African American children who attended segregated schools (in Washington, D.C.) versus those in integrated schools (in New York). A child was presented with two dolls who were completely identical except for skin and hair color. One doll was white with yellow hair the other brown with black hair. The experiment showed a clear preference for the white doll among all children exposing a self-hatred that was more acute among children attending segregated schools. The experiment, and the testimony given by Mamie Clark and her husband, helped win the case in Brown v Board of Education. (For more information, please visit here.)

Here is a picture of Mamie and Kenneth Clark:


And here is a picture from the doll experiment (picture found on http://www.nommomagazine.com):



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