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).
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.
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.
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?
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!