Little Know Black History Facts


Dr. Lloyd N. Ferguson

Ferguson started the first doctoral chemistry program at a black college. Born on February 9, 1918, in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Ferguson's family lost everything during the Great Depression. However, he bought a chemistry set at 12 and experimented in a backyard shed that he built himself. In high school, Ferguson developed and products such as moth repellent, spot remover and silver polish. His high-school chemistry teacher recognized his ability and encouraged Ferguson to go to college and pursue chemistry as a career.

After graduating from high school, he worked as a porter for the Southern Pacific Railway Company in order to save enough money to enroll at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1940, he earned a B.S. in chemistry and later went on to become the first African-American to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry at Berkeley. Dr. Ferguson worked with famous chemists such as Melvin Calvin and Glenn T. Seaborg.

Dr. Ferguson taught at Howard University, North Carolina A&T, California State University Los Angeles, Bennett College and the University of Nairobi, Kenya. In 1953, the Guggenheim awarded him a fellowship, which took him to the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen, Denmark. Between 1961 and 1962 he was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland.

Dr. Ferguson published more than six textbooks that are still used worldwide and translated into several languages including Mandarin, Hindu and Swahili. Universities in the South used Dr. Ferguson's textbooks and research before African-Americans were allowed to teach or attend many of those same universities.

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