Ernest Everett Just
|Dr. Ernest Everett Just|
|Born||August 14, 1883
Charleston, South Carolina
|Died||October 27, 1941 (aged 57)
|Residence||United States, Italy, Germany, France|
|Fields||biology, zoology, botany, history, and sociology|
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
Station biologique de Roscoff
|Alma mater||Dartmouth College
University of Chicago
|Doctoral advisor||Frank R. Lillie|
|Known for||marine biology
|Notable awards||Spingarn Medal (1915)|
Ernest Everett Just (August 14, 1883 – October 27, 1941) was a pioneering African-American biologist, academic and science writer. Just's primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. In his work within marine biology, cytology and parthenogenesis, he advocated the study of whole cells under normal conditions, rather than simply breaking them apart in a laboratory setting. In addition, Just also left an everlasting impression within the African American community for his ability to pursue a high level of education in spite of the racial obstacles that he faced torwards the path to success.
Just was born in South Carolina to Charles Frazier Just Jr. and Mary Matthews Just on August 14, 1883. His father and grandfather, Charles Sr., were dock builders. When Ernest was four years old, both his father and grandfather died. Ernest's father died of alcoholism. Just’s mother became the sole supporter of Just, his younger brother, and his younger sister. Mary Matthews Just taught at an African-American school in Charleston to support her family. During the summer, she worked in the phosphate mines on James Island. Noticing that there was much vacant land near the island, Mary persuaded several black families to move there to farm. The town they founded, now incorporated in the West Ashley area of Charleston, was eventually named Maryville in her honor.
When Just was young he became dreadfully sick for six weeks with typhoid. Once the fever passed he had a hard time recuperating, his memory had been greatly affected. He had previously learned to read and write with a great amount of excellence for someone so young. Now he had to go through the process all over again. His mother had been very sympathetic in teaching him but after a while she gave up on him. Then one day he read his first page- by himself, this seemed miraculous. He kept his new secret to himself for a month before telling his mother because he felt she had hurt him with her unreasonable expectations.
Hoping Just would become a teacher, his mother sent him to an all-black boarding school in Orangeburg, South Carolina at the age of thirteen. Believing that schools for blacks in the south were inferior, Just and his mother thought it better for him to go north. At the age of sixteen, Just enrolled at a Meriden, New Hampshire college-preparatory high school, Kimball Union Academy. During Just's second year at Kimball, he decided to return home for a visit only to hear that his mother had been buried an hour before he arrived. Despite this hardship, Just completed the four-year program in only three years and graduated in 1903 with the highest grades in his class.
Just went on to graduate magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Just won special honors in zoology, and distinguished himself in botany, history, and sociology as well. He was also honored as a Rufus Choate scholar for two years and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Just was also a candidate to deliver a commencement speech, but was not chosen because faculty “decided it would be a faux pas to allow the only black in the graduating class to address the crowd of parents, alumni, and benefactors. It would have made too glaring the fact that Just had won just about every prize imaginable." 
Founding of Omega Psi Phi
On November 17, 1911, Ernest assisted three Howard students (Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman), in establishing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Love, Cooper, and Coleman approached Just about establishing a black fraternity on campus. Howard's faculty and administration initially opposed the idea fearing a political threat this could pose to Howard's white administration. Despite the administration's initial doubts, Ernest Just worked to mediate the controversy. Omega Psi Phi, Alpha Chapter, was established on December 15, 1911.
restigious zoological station 'Anton Dohrn' in Naples, Italy. Then, in 1930, he became the first American to be invited to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Germany, where several Nobel Prize winners conducted research. Altogether from his first trip in 1929, Just made nine visits to Europe to pursue research. Scientists treated him like a celebrity and encouraged him to extend his theory on the ectoplasm to other species.  Just enjoyed traveling to Europe because he did not face as much discrimination there in comparison to the U.S. and when he did encounter racism, it came from two Americans. Beginning in 1933, Just ceased his work in Germany when the Nazis began to take the control of the country. He relocated his European-based studies to Paris.
Just authored two books, Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Mammals (1922) and The Biology of the Cell Surface (1939), and he also published several scientific papers relating to cell cytoplasm. Although Just’s experimental work showed an important role for the cell surface in development, it was largely and unfortunately ignored. This was true even with respect to scientists who emphasized the cell surface in their work. It was especially true of the Americans; with the Europeans he fared somewhat better.
At the outbreak of World War II, Ernest Just was working at the Station Biologique in Roscoff, France, researching the paper that would become Unsolved Problems of General Biology. Although the French government requested foreigners to evacuate the country, Just remained to complete his work. In 1940, Germany invaded France and Just was briefly imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp. He was rescued by the U.S. State Department and returned to his home country in September 1940. However, Just had been very ill for months prior to his arrest and his condition deteriorated in prison and on the journey back to the U.S. In the fall of 1941, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and died shortly thereafter.
Just was the subject of the 1983 biography Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just by Kenneth R. Manning. The book received the 1983 Pfizer Award and was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography. Just has been featured in The Black Heritage Stamp series that began in 1978 honoring Afro-Americans great accomplishments. His stamp became available on February 1, 1996.
Beginning in 2000, the Medical University of South Carolina has hosted the annual Ernest E. Just Symposium to encourage non-white students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences and health professions.
Just believed that "life as an event lies in a combination of chemical stuffs exhibiting physical properties; and it is in this combination, i.e., its behavior and activities, and in it alone that we can seek life."
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