Submitted by Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University on Wed, 07/21/2010 - 23:53
My Notes

This presentation provides a brief overview of the contributions of five AfricanAmerican chemists, including two inorganic chemists. George Washington Carver is quite often themost celebrated African American chemist (soil chemist), but he is only one individual! There are many other African Americans that have made important and significant contributions to the chemical sciences. The profiles include inorganic chemists, namely, Professor Gregory H. Robinson, University of Georgia and Dr. Novella Bridges, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

Learning Goals

There are various learning goals for this discussion:


1) The students will learn about ongoing research efforts within the field of inorganic chemistry.

2) The students will gain a better understanding of how chemists use peer-reviewed papers to prove each other wrong (communication skills)!

3) The students will gain an appreciation of the diversity of chemists in the field of inorganic chemistry.

Related activities
Implementation Notes

This is a modified presentation that I have given for a Joint ACS-NOBCChE Meeting (December 2009) in Cincinnati, OH. The first few slides provide some historical context with background information on Carver, Professor Saint Elmo Brady, the first African American to earn a PhD in chemistry (1916), and Professor Marie Maynard Daly, the first African American woman to earn a PhD in chemistry (1947). The remaining slides focus on Robinson and Bridges. I would emphasize to the audience that each of these five chemists are significant because of their contributions to the chemical sciences, just like all chemists.


This talk can be presented in its entirety, or some slides could be used to accompany discussions on specific topics, such as multiple bonding between main group elements. For example, in 1997, Robinson and his colleagues reported the first gallyne, containing a Ga-Ga triple bond (JACS, 1997, 119(23), pp 5471-5472).  Subsequently, the late Professor F. Albert Cotton published an article the following year (JACS, 1998, 120 (8), pp 1795-1799) challenging the research efforts by Robinson, who subsequently published another article to support the earlier paper (JACS, 1998, 120(15), 3773-3780). In a nutshell, this discussion sparked a real debate about how we describe multiple bonds in inorganic complexes.

Time Required
Approximately 20 minutes.
Evaluation Methods

One way to evaluate this activity is to ask students to write a summary of the presentation, or simply ask one question(essay) on an exam. A possible question could be “Consider the debate between Robinson and Cotton over the multiple bonding in the gallyne compound. Do you think this debate illustrates why it is important to have different bonding theories? Why or why not?


Evaluation Results

When I gave an early version of this presentation, I informed my general chemistry students that if they attended my seminar and wrote a brief essay about the talk, I would provide a few extra credit points toward their final grade. A few students provided some really interesting commentary about the concept of diversity!


Creative Commons License
Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike CC BY-NC-SA
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

Thanks for posting these slides.  I like to work in personal stories of chemists connected to the science the students are learning, and I can see more fodder here! 

 Has anyone else seen the PBS Nova special about Percy Julian?  It's called "Forgotten Genius," and it can be watched online, I think.   I bought a DVD copy, too.  I was out of town for a class a few years ago and asked my upper-level students to watch the video and respond.  They were surprised that Julian had to leave the US to get his PhD (I think he went to Austria) because no US doctoral program would admit him.  He wasn't an inorganic chemist, but still worth learning more about.  



Tue, 09/07/2010 - 15:30 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College

We show the Percy Julian video to our research students every summer as part of our "professional development" program. There is always a lively discussion afterwards.

And, one of the IONiC Leadership Council members, Hiiarly Eppley, teaches in the land of Percy Julian, DePauw University.

Thu, 09/09/2010 - 10:42 Permalink
Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University

I have seen "Forgetten Genius," and it is quite good. I think showing this is a good idea. I may think about doing this next semester.

Sibrina Collins, PhD College of Wooster

Tue, 09/21/2010 - 23:16 Permalink
Sibrina Collins / Marburger STEM Center (MSC) at Lawrence Technological University

I sometimes write contributions about African American scientists on the website. I recently posted a contribution on Dr. Harold Delaney. This could also be a resource and teaching tool. See the link below.

Sibrina Collins, PhD College of Wooster

Tue, 07/26/2011 - 17:55 Permalink
LaRico J Treadwell / Louisiana State University

I think this slide presentation was a very good idea.  I think a new slide presentation that is similar should be uploaded periodically as time goes on.

Tue, 06/25/2013 - 10:08 Permalink