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Department of Chemistry History

From chemistry courses taught by faculty in the medical school in the late 1800's to the over 25-member faculty and staff that exist today, chemistry has played a pivotal role in the history of Howard University.  Currently, the department is housed in the Chemistry Building that was built in the 1930's. Since then, the department has continued to grow and flourish.  The department was instrumental in the development of a graduate program at Howard University.  In 1923, we offered the Master of Science degree in Chemistry before the Graduate School was formed on campus.  Following this achievement, the Department of Chemistry became the first department to award the Ph.D. degree at the University, in 1958. 

The Department of Chemistry has housed many well-known, accomplished scientific minds and continues to be a place of great scientific discoveries.  Many of our undergraduate and graduate students have continued into successful careers in science, technology, and business. Their successes can be traced to the esteemed faculty that have served Howard University through both education and research.  

For more information about the history of the Chemistry Department and a few of its prominent scientists over the years, please read the sections below.  For information about the role of the department in the development of graduate studies, please view the article written by Martin Feldman, Professor Emeritus and Paul Hudrlik, Professor.  

A History of Chemistry at Howard, 1867 - 1927

Professor Emeritus Martin Feldman compiled a brief history of the Chemistry Department at Howard University in August 2000 for the Symposium "Chemistry in Washington 100 Years Ago,". His presentation is provided below in PDF format. The pages guide the reader through specific events at Howard, as well as some important events in the history of chemistry, from the 1860s to the 1930s. Special thanks to Dr. Thomas Battle, Director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the Moorland-Spingarn staff, and Dr.Clifford Muse, University Archivist, for their invaluable help in this project. Dr. Lester Lee provided digitized versions of many of the photographs.


Prominent Chemists at Howard University 

The first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry was Dr. St. Elmo Brady. He received the Ph.D., in 1916, from the University of Illinois. He later served as Professor of Chemistry in the Department of Chemisty at Howard University. For more information CLICK HERE

Dr. Edward M. A. Chandler received a B.S. degree, in 1913, from the Department of Chemistry at Howard University. In 1917, he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois. He was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Professor Dr. Percy L. Julian, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Head, Department of Chemistry, Howard University, 1927-31; Professor 1931-32. Dr. Julian was a world renowned chemist who was honored with a postage stamp issue (below) in January, 1993. For more information, CLICK HERE .

Postage Stamp Honoring Professor Dr. Julian issued on January 29, 1993.

Professor Dr. Moddie D. Taylor, Ph.D., Chairman, Department of Chemistry, Howard University, 1969-76; Dr. Taylor was a pioneer of the atomic age, having worked on the Manhatten Project during World War II. For more information, CLICK HERE .


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