Hildrus Poindexter

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Hildrus Augustus Poindexter
Hildrus Poindexter. Photograph by L.J. Bruce-Chwatt. Wellcome V0028003.jpg
Hildrus Augustus Poindexter

May 10, 1901 (1901-05-10)
DiedApril 21, 1987 (1987-04-22) (aged 85)
Scientific career
FieldsTropical diseases

Hildrus Augustus "Gus" Poindexter (May 10, 1901 – April 21, 1987) was an American bacteriologist who studied the epidemiology of tropical diseases. Poindexter was the third son and sixth child of eleven children born from the legal Christian marital union of Fred Poindexter, born enslaved in Kentucky, and Luvenia Gilbert, born free in Virginia. (1,2) His father was a tenant farmer and along with his siblings, he grew up learning and tending to farming tasks.


He attended Lincoln University, graduating in 1924. A year later he attended Dartmouth Medical School[1] and then went on to Harvard Medical School[2] where earned his M.D. in 1929. He furthered his studies at Columbia University, where he received an A.M. in microbiology in 1930, and the Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology in 1932. The M.A. thesis was "An Academic Study of Entamoeba histolytica" and his Ph.D. thesis was "Observations on the Defense mechanism in Trypanosoma equiperdum and T. lewisi Infections in Guinea Pigs and Rats." He received an M.S.P.H. in public health and tropical medicine from Harvard in 1932. His thesis for this degree was "Consideration of Four Major Handicaps to Normal Growth and Development of the Rural Negro Child of Certain Southern States."


Poindexter became the head of the Medical College at Howard University in 1936.[3] He entered the United States Army in 1943 and had a very distinguished career as an expert on Malaria and other tropical diseases. He left the army as a lieutenant colonel having earned a bronze star for his work in reducing malaria infections among the troops.[4] He continued his military service as a commissioned officer in the United States Public Health Service. In 1947, Senior Surgeon Poindexter was appointed posted to the Mission to Liberia as chief of laboratory and medical research in West Africa. The goal of the mission was to help the Liberian government in sanitation planning and the control of infectious diseases. He became director in 1948.[citation needed] In 1953 Dr. Poindexter was transferred to Indochina.[5] He went on to serve in various other countries including Vietnam, Surinam, Iraq, Libya, and Sierra Leone before returning to the faculty of Howard University.[6] During his tenure at Howard, Pondexter mentored a number of notable younger scientists, such as Jane Hinton, the co-developer of the Mueller-Hinton agar, and Ruth Ella Moore.[7] Poindexter published his autobiography, My World Of Reality, in 1973 in which he candidly discusses his various life experiences including dealings with racial prejudice.[8] One example is the offer of membership by the American Society of Parasitologists, withdrawn when the society learned that Poindexter was Black.[7]


He was a Prince Hall Mason[9] and member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1962, Poindexter became the first Black scientist to become board-certified in microbiology by the American Society for Microbiology, passing the American Board of Medical Microbiology certification as only the 141th person to do so.[7]


  1. ^ "Hildrus Augustus Poindexter". African Americans @ Dartmouth College 1775-1950. Black Alumni of Dartmouth Association.
  2. ^ "Ex-Medical Director of PHS Dr. Hildrus Poindexter Dies". Washington Post.
  3. ^ Cobb, WM (1973). "Hildrus Augustus Poindexter, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., D.Sc., 1901-". J Natl Med Assoc. 65 (3): 243–7. PMC 2609010. PMID 4573853.
  4. ^ James H. Kessler (1996). Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  5. ^ Walter White (1995). A Man Called White: The Autobiography of Walter White. University of Georgia Press.
  6. ^ African American Lives, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. Oxford University Press, USA, 2004. ISBN 9780199882861
  7. ^ a b c Culbreath, Karissa (2021-02-18). "The Black Clinical Microbiologists on Whose Shoulders We Stand". American Society for Microbiology. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  8. ^ Ahmed, Mahaa. "Dr. Hildrus Poindexter". Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  9. ^ "Black Caucus of Health Workers: Awards". blackcaucus1968.blogspot.ie. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  10. ^ "Famous Brothers pg4 - Lambda Gamma Gamma Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity". www.ques-lgg.org. Retrieved 2016-07-15.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kessler, J., Kidd, J. Kidd R. & Morin, K. (1996). Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press. pp. 275–280.