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Wed, 02.07.1923

Henry Washington Banks, Astronomer born

*Harvey Washington Banks was born on this date in 1923.  He was a Black Astronomer.

From Atlantic City, New Jersey he attended Dunbar High School and Howard University. At Howard Banks earned his B.S. and M.S. in Physics in 1947 and 1948.  He remained at Howard, where he taught physics until 1952. From 1952 to 1954, he worked in the private sector before teaching physics and mathematics in the Washington, D.C. public school system for two years. In 1961, he became the first Black American to receive a Ph.D. in astronomy from Georgetown University.

He married Ernestine Boykin, and together the couple had four children-Harvey III, Deborah, Dwann, and Darryle. As an astronomer and scientist who made history in 1961 when he became the first Black scientist to earn a doctorate specifically in astronomy. His research contributed to advances in the field of astronomical spectroscopy, the use of light to study the properties of stars, planets, asteroids, and other celestial bodies. Banks also specialized in geodesy, the science of accurately measuring and understanding the Earth’s geometric shape, orientation in space, and gravity field. Many aspects of today’s Global Positioning System (GPS) technology are based on his work in geodesy. Harvey Washington Banks died in 1979.

To Be a Physicist or Astronomer

To Become an Astrophysicist


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