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Sat, 02.09.1918

Lloyd Noel Ferguson, Chemist born

Lloyd Noel Ferguson

*Lloyd Noel Ferguson was born on this date in 1918.  He was a Black chemist, author, and educator.

From Oakland, CA., he was the son of Noel Ferguson, a businessman, and Gwendolyn Ferguson, a housemaid. Ferguson’s interest in chemistry began when he was a child. He built a shed in his backyard so that he could conduct experiments away from his house where he developed a moth repellent, silverware cleanser, and a lemonade powder. Ferguson skipped two grades, and although an illness kept him out of school for a year, he was able to graduate from Oakland Tech High School in 1934, when he was sixteen.

After high school, Ferguson worked with the Works Progress Administration and the Southern Pacific Railway Company as a porter to save money to attend college. In 1936, Ferguson became the first in his family to attend college, and he earned his B.S. degree with honors in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940. Ferguson then earned his PhD. degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1943, making him the first Black to do so.

After receiving his PhD., he took a faculty position at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. He then approximately two years later, moved to Howard University, where he became the chair of his department and founded a doctoral program there, the first in chemistry at any black college. While affiliated with Howard University, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1953 and an NSF grant in 1960 that allowed him to travel to the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark, and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. He moved to California State University, Los Angeles, in 1965. He again became chair and played an advisory role to the Food and Drug Administration; he retired in 1986.

Ferguson is the author of seven chemistry textbooks and more than 50 research papers. His research included work on organic chemistry, the relation between structure and function in biochemistry, chemotherapy treatments for cancer, and the chemical basis for the human sense of taste. In 1972, Ferguson was one of the founders of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

In his honor, the organization gives its Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award to young scientists with "technical excellence and documented contributions to their field." He received the Outstanding Professor Award from the California State University system in 1979–1980. In 1995, the chemistry department at Cal. State L.A. established the annual Lloyd Ferguson Distinguished Lecture series in Ferguson's honor.

Lloyd Noel Ferguson died on November 30, 2011.

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