Marguerite Williams

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Marguerite Thomas Williams (24 December 1895 – 1991?)[1] was an African American geologist. She was the first African American to earn a doctorate in geology in the United States.[2]

Early years and education[edit]

Williams was born in Washington D.C. in 1895. She taught in Washington D.C. elementary schools for seven years before earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in 1923.[2] Williams was mentored by African American biologist Ernest Everett Just.[1] From 1923–1933 she was chair of the division of geography at the Miner Teachers College (Normal School for Colored Girls) in Washington, D.C., incorporated into the University of the District of Columbia since 1976.[3][4]

She was granted a leave from Miner Teachers College to pursue her master's degree in geology at Columbia University, which she completed in 1930.[5]

In 1942, she completed her PhD dissertation at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The title of her dissertation was A History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin.[6] Her dissertation was published by the Catholic University of America Press.[7][8]


In her dissertation, A History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin, Williams sought to explore on the factors that eventually lead to the erosion observed in the Anacostia River. Little had been done in terms of examining the upper and lower regions of the river and the basin sedimentation. The flooding of Bladensburg, Maryland precipitated the erosion, and had caused the necessity for an investigation. She concluded that in addition to natural erosion, human activities including deforestation, agriculture and urbanization accelerated the process.[9]


Williams spent most of her career teaching courses on geology and the social sciences. After gaining her PhD in 1942, she was appointed a full professor at Miner Teachers College. In addition to teaching and serving as chair of the Geology Department at Miner Teachers College (1923–1933), she also taught at Howard University during the 1940s.[5] She retired in 1955.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Marguerite Thomas Williams". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ogilvie, Marilyn, Joy Harvey (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. New York: Routledge. p. 1382. ISBN 0415920388.
  3. ^ "The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences". Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  4. ^ "Women's History Month: Marguerite Thomas Williams". University of District Columbia. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  5. ^ a b Warren, Winifred (2000). Black Women Scientists in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 267. ISBN 0253336031.
  6. ^ Williams, Marguerite. "A History of Erosion in the Anacostia Basin". World Cat. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  7. ^ Titcomb, Caldwell (30 March 1997). "The Earliest Ph.D. Awards to Blacks in the Natural Sciences". The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
  8. ^ Williams, Marguerite Thomas (1942). A History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin. Maryland and Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.
  9. ^ Williams, M.T. (1942). A History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin. OP31248 University Microfilms International, The Taylor Family Digital Library