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Tue, 02.21.1905

Samuel Nabrit, Biologist born

Samuel M. Nabrit

*Samuel Nabrit was born on this date in 1905. He was a Black biologist, educator, and activist.

Samuel Milton Nabrit was born in Augusta, GA, to Rev. Dr. J.M. Nabrit Sr., class of 1898, and Gertrude West Nabrit. He was one of eight children, all of whom received a college education; his brother James Nabrit became president of Howard University.   Nabrit attended schools in Macon and received his bachelor's degree in biology from Morehouse College in 1925. He obtained his Master’s degree from Brown University in 1928 and his doctorate in biology from Brown University in 1932. The next four African American Ph.D. candidates at Brown University were students whom Nabrit taught at Morehouse.

He later became chairman of the biology department at Atlanta University in 1932 and became dean of their graduate school of arts and sciences in 1947. In 1945, he was a founding member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine and served as president of the National Institute of Science.  In 1950, Dr. Nabrit was a research fellow at the University of Brussels. The scientific papers Nabrit published during this period remained influential for decades. In 1955, he was named the second president of Texas Southern University, where he served as president until 1966.

Between 1956 and 1962, Nabrit served on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s National Science Board. President John F. Kennedy appointed him to be the United States Ambassador to Niger. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Nabrit to the United States Atomic Energy Commission. One year later, Dr. Nabrit founded the Southern Fellowship Fund to assist African American students pursuing doctoral degrees. He directed the program (later known as the National Fellowship Fund of the Council of Southern Universities) well into his later years.

In 1967, Nabrit was elected to the Board of Trustees at Brown University. Along with the Nabrit Fellowship established at Brown University in 1985, the Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association at Brown University is named in his honor. From 1967 to 1981, Nabrit was chairman of the Atlanta-based Southern Fellowship Fund, which gave $4 million in grants to minority faculty to help them gain advanced degrees. In 1999, the university honored Nabrit with hanging a portrait alongside Brown’s most distinguished faculty.

Samuel Nabrit died on December 30, 2003, at Atlanta Medical Center. He was 98.

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