Keeping up with this month’s theme of Black history and social justice, the topic of Black excellence is always a good one. It is very interesting to learn about how these people in under-represented social groups are able to achieve so much with such little resources. It is truly amazing, and also what’s weird is that we never hear about these people. Let’s look at one of these people and highlight their significance in this world – Ernest Everett Just, PhD.
Who was he?
Dr. Just was a pioneering biologist and scientific writer. He was born and raised in South Carolina on August 14, 1883. He was the son of an alcoholic father when he was just 4 years old his father had passed away due to alcoholism. From then on, he was raised by his single mother.
How educated was he?
Dr. Just’s mother, Mary, wanted him to just become a teacher and decided to send him to a high school in the south. But, Mary then believed that the schools in the south were inferior and then sent him to a preparatory school in the north. From then, he graduated from Dartmouth and developed an interest in Biology and specifically in fertilization and egg development because of a newspaper he read on this topic. After graduating from Dartmouth, he earned distinguished honors for topics such as history, biology, and botany. Safe to say he was one incredibly intelligent and educated individual.
What did he do next after college and into his career?
As his mother wanted, his first job after graduating college was becoming a teacher at the famous Howard University. He then later received his PhD from the University of Chicago where he majored in embryology. As stated earlier, he was a pioneer. He found many new areas in the stages of development, including fertilization, experimental parthenogenesis, hydration, cell division, dehydration in living cells and ultraviolet carcinogenic radiation effects on cells. Also stated earlier, Dr. Just was an academic writer who edited for major magazines and won the NAACP’s first ever Spingarn medal which stands for outstanding achievement for an african american individual. Dr. Just also faced many racial challenges growing up and living in the United States of America. He was awarded a position in the Julius Rosenwald Fellow in Biology of the National Research Council which allowed him to work in Europe. Since his work was hindered so heavily in America, this position was very good for him. During his time in Europe, he published many research papers. He, to this day, is seen as “a biologist of unusual skill and the greatest of our original thinkers in the field.”
What are some of his greatest discoveries?
Dr. Just is known for his discovery of the “wave of negativity” that sweeps of the sea urchin egg during fertilization, and his elucidation of what are known as the fast and slow blocks to polyspermy. He discovered that a “wave of negativity” sweeps over the egg during fertilization – it is a wave of ectoplasmic structural change that blocks additional sperm from binding to the egg and is associated with what is known as the fast block to polyspermy. He distinguished this fast wave from the slower wave of fertilization membrane separation. He noted that the rapid wave of negativity preceded the slower one defined by membrane separation. Complicated right? Well, at least he and other biologists understood it. Dr. Just was a very underrated scientist, nobody has ever heard of him! Hopefully this can give you insight to a man that persevered through rough times, socially through racism and mentally through the troubles with his early life.