Profile: Samuel Massie Jr.

Dr. Samuel Massie Jr.: 

Samuel Massie Jr. was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 3rd, 1919. The son of two teachers, Massie was an incredibly bright child. He skipped many grades and ended up graduating from high school at the age of 13. Too young to be accepted to college, Massie and worked at the local grocery store. Eventually he was accepted and graduated from University of Arkansas Pine Bluff (then Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal college) with highest honors in chemistry and minored in mathematics and french. In 1940, he earned his masters from Fisk University in Nashville, TN. Afterwards, he returned to Arkansas AMN to teach mathematics and physics. Soon later, he would be accepted into the Iowa State University graduate program and would leave Nashville for Ames, IA.

During World War II, Massie was directed to work as a graduate research associate from ISU for the Manhattan Project from 1943-1946. After work there was completed, he returned to his graduate studies and earned his doctorate in 1946.

After earning his doctorate, Massie returned to Fisk University to teach. There, he met his wife who was president of her class at the time (1947). A year later, Massie was offered a teaching position at Langston university, Oklahoma. He taught there until 1953, when in his final year he broke racial barriers when elected president of the Oklahoma Academy of Science.

After returning to Fisk University, and working a stint for the National Science foundation, Howard University, and North Carolina College at Durham, President Lyndon Johnson offered Massie a teaching position at the US Naval Academy. Massie accepted the offer and moved to Maryland. But in 1966, Massie still faced racism and struggled to find satisfactory living quarters for his family and to teach basically an all white audience who were used to segregated America. But he soon became a favorite and was appointed department head in 1977. During his time at the Academy, Massie focused his work on human health, helping develop methods to combat poison gas, malaria, and even earned a patent for gonorrhea antibiotic along with his colleagues.

While teaching and researching, Massie also served 21 years on the Maryland State Board of Community Colleges and was a strong advocate for science education and investment in science programs. In 1993, Massie became the first black civilian to become a member of the National Naval Officers Association. In 1994, he retired from the academy and was named Professor Emeritus. In 1998, Chemical and Engineering News named Massie one of the world’s 75 most distinguished chemists, a list that also included Marie Curie and Linus Pauling. He was one of three African Americans named.

He died in April of 2005 and is buried in Annapolis, Maryland.

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