A Science-Fiction “Genius”

(June 22, 1947- February 24, 2006)

Octavia Estelle Butler

Octavia Butler, a writer of science fiction, brought elements of African and African-American spiritualism, mysticism, and mythology to her novels and stories.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born an only child on July 22, 1947, in Pasadena to a housemaid Octavia Butler and shoeshine man Laurice. Her father passed away when she was a baby, so she was raised by her grandmother and her mother. As a girl, she was known as Junie, derived from “Junior” since her mother was also named Octavia. Butler’s mother worked as a maid to provide for the family after her father died, but nonetheless they continued to struggle in a poor but racially mixed neighborhood throughout her childhood. At the time, Pasadena was a more racially integrated city than others around the country. Still, Butler would later recount memories of blatant racism her mother endured at the hands of her employers — including racial slurs and not being allowed to enter residences through the front door.

Bulter grew up shy, losing herself in books despite having dyslexia. Bulter’s mom could not afford books, but she brought home the discards of the white families for whom she worked. Butler began writing when she was 10 years old.

Butler earned an associate’s degree from Pasadena City College in 1968, and later studied at California State University, Los Angeles. Over the years, Bulter would religiously get up each day at 2 a.m. to write.

Her novel, Kindred (1979), introduced the science fiction community to slavery in the United States through a narrative involving time travel, while Parable of the Sower (1993) raised questions about the environment, technology, theology, and metaphysics.

Butler’s Patternists series includes five novels published between 1976 and 1984, and investigates issues of gender and class identity within a society managed by an elite group of telepaths. Her Xenogenesis trilogy, including Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989), depicts the near destruction of the human world due to prejudice, class conflict, and violence.

In 1995 Octavia Butler was given a MacArthur Fellowship, the first science fiction writer to receive the award. She also received two Hugo Awards from the World Science Fiction Society and two Nebula Awards from the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Butler died on February 24, 2006, after falling and striking her head on a walkway outside her home in Lake Forest Park, Washington. Her books have been translated into 10 languages and have sold more than a million copies altogether.

References for post:

Historylink.org

Goldenstate.is

Latimes.com

Theguardian.com

Theportalist.com

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1st P.h.D in Chemistry

(April 16, 1921-October 28, 2003)

Marie Maynard Daly

The first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Marie M. Daly was born in 1921 in Corona, New York. Her parents inspired her passion for science; her mother fostered her love of books and her father passed on his love of chemistry. Before Marie was born, her father had enrolled at Cornell University to study chemistry, but ultimately had to leave due to a lack of money.

Marie’s parents were strong believers in education at a time when attending college was seen as impossible to many African Americans. As a woman of color, Marie overcame financial, gender, and racial hurdles. Hence, after graduating from Hunter College High School, an all-girls institution in New York City, Marie attended Queens College in Flushing, New York, where she majored in chemistry choosing to live at home in order to save money.

Marie graduated magna cum laude in 1942 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and was offered a fellowship to pursue her graduate studies at New York University, whilst working part-time as a laboratory assistant at Queens College. Marie completed her Master’s degree in just one year.

In 1944, Marie enrolled at Columbia University as a doctoral student, where she undertook research into compounds the body produces and how these affect digestion. Working under the direction of Dr. Mary L Caldwell (the first female assistant professor at Columbia University), Marie completed her PhD with a thesis entitled “A study of the products formed by the action of pancreatic amylase on corn starch”.

In 1947, she became the first African American woman in the United States to be awarded a PhD in chemistry.

Dr. Daly made important contributions in four areas of research: the chemistry of histones, protein synthesis, the relationships between cholesterol and hypertension, and creatine’s uptake by muscle cells.

Dr. Marie Maynard Daly, whose pioneering research resulted in a new understanding of the relationship between high cholesterol and clogged arteries. In fact, Dr. Daly’s work helped to shape much of what we now know about the biochemical aspects of cardiovascular health, identifying the link between high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease, which led to a better understanding of the causes of heart attacks.

Dr. Daly continued to teach and carry out pioneering research at Albert Einstein College, including the study into the effects of cigarette smoking on the lungs, until she retired in 1986.

Notably, Dr. Daly made significant contributions to the field of biochemistry while also advocating for increased enrollment of students of color in medical schools and science graduate programs. In honor of her father, she even created a scholarship program for minority students pursuing science degrees at Queens College.

In 1999, Dr. Marie Maynard Daly was recognized by the National Technical Association as one of the top 50 women in Science, Engineering and Technology.

Dr. Daly died on October 28, 2003.

Dr. Marie Maynard Daly’s impact on future generations of scientists extends far beyond her scientific contributions—her memory continues to inspire individuals from all walks of life to pursue careers in STEM.

Reference for post:

sciencehistory.org

undark.org

blackpast.org

africanamericanscientist.com