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Samuel P. Massie
*Samuel Massie, a Black chemist and teacher, was born on this date in 1919.
Born in Little Rock, AR, Samuel Proctor Massie read at a third-grade level when he entered first grade, skipped several grades, and graduated at age 13. Because of his age and family finances, he worked in a grocery store for a year before enrolling at Dunbar Junior College in Little Rock. After graduating, he wanted to attend the University of Arkansas, but the doors were closed to Black students. Undaunted and interested in finding a cure for his father's asthma, in 1936, he graduated summa cum laude in chemistry from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff).
He earned a master's degree in chemistry from Fisk University in 1940. He then returned to Arkansas AM&N to teach for a year. Massie earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Iowa in 1946. While there, he also served as a research associate and instructor in chemistry at Fisk University from 1946-1947. Also, while studying for his doctoral degree, he worked on the Manhattan Project with scientists making liquid compounds of uranium for the atomic bomb.
He conducted pioneering silicon chemistry research and investigated antibacterial agents. With two midshipmen and colleagues from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, he was awarded a patent for chemical agents effective in battling gonorrhea. From 1947 to 1953, Dr. Massie was appointed professor of chemistry and later Chairman of the Department at Langston University. Between 1953 and 1960, Professor Massie served as a professor of chemistry and chairman of the Department of Fisk University.
Dr. Massie was appointed Program Director for the National Science Foundation. Between 1961 and 1963, he served as a professor of chemistry and department chairman at Howard University. Beginning in 1966, Professor Massie served as a professor of chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy. Despite his extraordinary work in so many aspects of chemistry, Dr. Massie first and foremost considered himself as a teacher.
He was named one of the 75 premier chemists of the 20th century, along with Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, Kodak founder George Eastman, and DNA researchers James Watson and Francis Crick. Samuel P. Massie Jr., a chemistry professor who was the first African American to teach at the U.S. Naval Academy, died on April 10, 2005, at Mariner Health care Center in Laurel. He was 85 and had dementia.