Minority Chemists

Reatha King (1938 – Present)

  • In 1954, King graduated as valedictorian from the Moultrie High School for Negro Youth.
  • King was hired by the National Bureau of Standards, becoming the agency’s first African American female chemist.
  • As a research chemist, she won the Meritorious Publication Award for her paper on fluoride flame calorimetry.
  • At York College, she became Associate Dean for the Division of Natural Science and Mathematics in 1970, and Associate Dean for academic affairs in 1974.
  • Reatha King was hired at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota as executive director of the General Mills Foundation and vice president of the General Mills Corporation.

Betty Washington Green (1935 – 1995)

  • Dr. Greene was the first African American to work for Dow Chemical in a professional capacity. Greene’s research was focused on colloidal chemistry, more specifically, the chemistry of latex, including the interaction between latex and paper.
  • Greene’s doctoral dissertation, Determination of Particle Size Distributions in Emulsions by Light Scattering, was published as a book in 1965.
  • In 1965, Greene also joined Dow Chemical Company, working in the firm’s E.C. Britton Research Laboratory in Midland, Michigan.  

St. Elmo Brady (1916 – 1966)

  • The first African American to earn a PhD in chemistry.
  • His research focused on how the acidity of carboxylic acids changed based on the addition of different chemical groups.
  • He taught for several years at what would eventually be called Tuskegee University and eventually became the chair of the chemistry department at Howard University.
  • At Fisk University, Brady created the nation’s first graduate program in chemistry at a historically Black college and eventually did the same at three other universities.
  • In 2019, the American Chemical Society awardd Brady a National Historic Chemical Landmark because of his accomplishments.

Samuel P. Massie (1919 – 2005)

  • In 1982, he patented an antibiotic for treating gonorrhea.
  • In his career, he also focused on education—teaching chemistry and taking an appointment at the National Science Foundation to shape science education across the nation.
  • He chaired the department of the National Science Foundation, becoming the first Black person to hold that position.