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Fri, 08.14.1914

Herman Branson, Sickle Cell Physicist born

Herman Branson

*Herman Branson was born on this date in 1914. He was a Black Physicist.

Physics is the science of nature in the broadest sense. Physicists study the behavior and properties of matter in a wide variety of contexts, ranging from the sub-nuclear particles from which all ordinary matter is made (particle physics) to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole (cosmology).

From Pocahontas, Virginia, Branson received a B. S. from Virginia State College in 1936. In 1939 he received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Cincinnati. From 1941-43, he was Assistant Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Howard University. He was also named Director of the ESMWT (Experimental Science and Mathematics W Technology) Program in Physics at Howard in 1942, serving there until 1944, and he directed the ASTRP courses in Physics at Howard University.  In 1947, Dr. Branson was named the Directory of the Office of Naval Research and Atomic Energy Commission Projects in Physics at Howard University.

His research interests were in mathematical biology and protein structure. He produced more than 100 research and other articles on physics, biophysics, black American colleges, and science education. His most significant undertakings included the co-discovery of the alpha helix, an integral equation of biological systems, and electron impact studies on small organic molecules.  He was also associated with introducing information theory in the study of biological molecules, introducing information theory in the study of biological models, and using radioactive and stable isotopes in biological transport studies.

From 1946 to 1950, he was named Director of the Research Corporation Project at Howard University. Branson became a full professor of Physics and Chairman of the Physics Department of Howard University in 1941, staying on until 1968.  From 1968 to 1970, Branson was selected as President of Central State University. In 1970 he became the President of Lincoln University and served until his retirement in 1985. Branson was co-inventor of the alpha helix and perhaps deserved a share of the Nobel Prize. As the story goes, somehow, someone got Branson excluded from the prize.

He was a Rosenwald Fellow and a senior fellow at the National Research Council. He was a member of the National Research Council (1972 to his death). He wrote extensively on physical-chemical studies of sickle anemic red blood cells. Dr. Herman Branson died on June 7, 1995.

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