African Americans in Physics and Allied Sciences in ESVA

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By: Savannah Gignac, Assistant Photo Librarian

 AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, gift of Dr. Ronald Mallett.In honor of Black History month, we are celebrating the careers and contributions of African Americans in physics and allied sciences. Our collection includes such historical notables as Robert Bragg and Herman Branson, as well as contemporaries like Ronald Mallett, James Gates, Shirley Jackson, Ronald Mickens, and Cynthia McIntyre. Here are a few highlights:

Robert Bragg began his career as a Senior Physicist (1959-61) at the Research Institute of Illinois Institute of Technology, going on to serve as Research Scientist at the Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory from 1961 to 1963. Bragg made major contributions in the areas of x-ray diffraction and small angle x-ray scattering, and their use in studying heat-activated processes in materials.

 AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, gift of Dr. Herman Branson.Herman Branson received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cincinnati and went on to serve as assistant professor of physics and chemistry at Howard University (1941-43). In 1944 Dr. Branson became a full professor of physics and was chairman of the physics department of Howard University from 1944 to 1968. Branson's research interests were in mathematical biology and protein structure. He produced more than 100 research and other articles on physics, biophysics, historically black colleges and universities, and science education. He was president of Central State University from 1968 to 1970, and in 1970 Dr. Branson became the President of Lincoln University and served until his retirement in 1985.

 George Mason University, Photograph by Neil Adams, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Ronald E. Mickens Collection.Cynthia McIntyre is a theoretical condensed matter physicist and holds a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a Bunting Fellow at Harvard University. Currently, Dr. McIntyre is Senior Vice President at the NGO, Council on Competitiveness, which is dedicated to developing public policy recommendations to create new domestic jobs in the U.S. 

The careers of physicists and allied scientists in our photo collection span government scientists, industrial physicists and academics. Their accomplishments have been recognized by the National Medal of Science, induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and many honors and awards. To see more photos of African American physicists, see ESVA’s featured gallery this month.