Jump to content

Samuel P. Massie

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Samuel P. Massie Jr
Photo of Samuel P. Massie in a lab
Samuel P. Massie
Samuel Proctor Massie

(1919-07-03)July 3, 1919
DiedApril 10, 2005(2005-04-10) (aged 85)
Alma mater
Known for
SpouseGloria Thompkins Massie
Scientific career
ThesisHigh-molecular weight compounds of nitrogen and sulfur as therapeutic agents (1946)
Doctoral advisorHenry Gilman

Samuel Proctor Massie, Jr. (July 3, 1919 – April 10, 2005) was a chemist who studied a variety of chemicals that contributed towards the development of therapeutic drugs, including the chemistry of phenothiazine. As one of the African American scientists and technicians on the Manhattan Project to develop atomic bombs in World War II Massie worked with uranium isotopes. Massie was named one of the top 75 distinguished contributors to chemistry in history by Chemical and Engineering News.

Massie was elected as the third President of North Carolina College at Durham in 1963, and he became the first African-American professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1966. He was a leading educator who promoted the participation of African-Americans in education. University chairs have been endowed and named in his honor, as well as an elementary school.

Early life and education[edit]

Massie was born on July 3, 1919, in Little Rock, Arkansas.[1][2] He was the eldest of two sons of Earlee Jacko Massie and Samuel Proctor Massie Sr.[3] His parents were members of a college fraternity and sorority, and both were educators.[3][4] Massie Sr was a pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.), and a civil rights activist.[3]

Massie Jr graduated from Dunbar High School at the age of 13 after following his teacher mother from class to class, and then worked at a grocery store to earn tuition fees for studying at Dunbar Junior College in Little Rock.[2][1][5] He applied to the University of Arkansas but was rejected because of his race.[2] (In 1970, the University awarded him an honorary PhD.[6]) Instead, he graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry in 1937 at the age of 18, from the Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (Arkansas AM&N, now called University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff).[2] He chose chemistry because his father suffered from asthma, and he wanted to help find a cure.[2][4]

Massie gained a master's degree in chemistry from Fisk University in Tennessee in 1940 on a scholarship, then taught for a year at Arkansas AM&N before going on to study for his PhD at Iowa State University.[1] His supervisor was Henry Gilman, who was working on the Manhattan Project.[1][2] Racial segregation at the university prevented him from living on campus, so he had to travel miles to university, where he was also not allowed to work in the same laboratories as white students.[1] He said: "The laboratory for the white boys was on the second floor next to the library. My laboratory was in the basement next to the rats. Separate but equal."[7]

In the second year of his doctoral studies in 1943, his father died from an asthma attack.[3][1] When he returned to Arkansas for the funeral, he sought an extension of his military draft deferment, and was rejected with a racial slur about being over-educated. He turned to Gilman, who ensured he movied him onto the Manhattan Project.[1] Massie later said, "All of us had to make a decision how we would serve the war efforts. I dropped out of school and went into the chemical warfare service".[2] Massie worked in the Ames Laboratory, researching the conversion of uranium isotopes into liquid compounds that could be used in the atomic bomb.[2] He worked on the Manhattan Project from 1943 to 1945, developing keloid scars on his back due to radiation exposure, and witnessing colleagues next to him being caught in a laboratory explosion.[4] After the war, Massie completed his PhD, which involved testing compounds for therapeutic activity.[8]


After completing his PhD and teaching for a time at Fisk University, Massie joined the faculty of Langston University in Oklahoma, where he taught from 1947 to 1953.[1] He became the first African-American president of the Oklahoma Academy of Science.[9] In 1953, he returned to Fisk University, where he taught until 1960.[1] In 1954, he published a paper, The Chemistry of Phenothiazine,[10] a classic in the field from which anti-psychotic medications were developed.[1][11] He had more than 500 requests for copies of the paper, from 50 countries.[12]

In 1960, Massie moved to Washington, D.C., taking on the role of Associate Program Director for Special Projects in Science Education at the National Science Foundation (NSF), helping improve college laboratories nationwide.[2] He was also a professor at Howard University.[1] In 1963, he became the third President of North Carolina College at Durham.

Massie was appointed to the faculty of the United States Naval Academy by President Johnson in 1966, its first African-American professor.[1] During his tenure in Annapolis, Massie served on the academy’s equal employment opportunity committee and helped establish a black studies program. He retired from the post in 1993.[1] Massie subsequently became the vice president of Bingwa Software Company, developing multicultural educational software.[11]

In 1984, he and others were granted a patent for a chemical compound to treat gonorrhea, malaria, and bacterial infections.[13]

In 1994, the U.S. Department of Energy created the Dr. Samuel P. Massie Chair of Excellence, a $14.7 million grant to nine historically black colleges and one for Hispanic students to further environmental research.[1] His portrait was hung in the National Academy of Sciences Gallery in 1995.

In 1998, he was voted by the readers of Chemical and Engineering News as one of the top 75 distinguished contributors to chemistry in history.[14]

An elementary school in Prince George's County, Maryland, is named in Massie's honor.[15]

Personal life[edit]

In 1947, Massie married Gloria Bell Thompkins, who he met after the War when he was teaching at Fisk University.[16][9] Across her career, Gloria Massie was a psychology professor at Bowie State University,[5] and was a social columnist for Jet magazine.[17] The Massies had three sons.[9] They lived in Laurel, Maryland, because when he joined the U.S. Naval Academy, they could not get a home in Annapolis because real estate agents refused to show the African-American couple homes in good areas.[2][5] His wife died on January 22, 2005, and Massie, who had dementia, died soon after, on April 10, 2005, aged 85.[18][2] He also self-published a short autobiography with the collaboration of Robert C. Hayden in 2005.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Bradburn, Cary. "Samuel Proctor Massie Jr. (1919–2005)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Samuel P. Massie Jr". Atomic Heritage Foundation. Atomic Heritage Foundation & National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d "Charter Member S.P. Massie". bluephi.net. blue phi blog. 23 July 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Massie, Victoria M. (27 May 2016). "My pop-pop was a groundbreaking black chemist — who helped create the atomic bomb". Vox. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Argetsinger, Amy (26 February 1998). "LIVING OUT A FORMULA FOR SUCCESS". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  6. ^ "Black History Month: 5 Facts About Dr. Samuel P. Massie". Energy.gov. U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  7. ^ Shinhoster Lamb, Yvonne (April 15, 2005). "Prof. Samuel Massie Dies; Broke Naval Academy's Race Barrier (washingtonpost.com)". www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  8. ^ Massie, Samuel Proctor (1946). "High-molecular weight compounds of nitrogen and sulfur as therapeutic agents". Iowa State College Journal of Science. 21 (1). Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University: 41–5. PMID 20276857. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  9. ^ a b c Absher, A. (25 July 2011). "Samuel Proctor Massie (1919-2005) •". BlackPast.org. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  10. ^ Massie, Samuel P. (1 October 1954). "The Chemistry of Phenothiazine". Chemical Reviews. 54 (5): 797–833. doi:10.1021/cr60171a003.
  11. ^ a b "Samuel P. Massie". www.cpnas.org. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  12. ^ "Publications of Dr Massie". www.massiechairs.com. Dr. Samuel P. Massie Chairs of Excellence. Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  13. ^ Scovill, John P.; Klayman, Daniel L.; Massie, Samuel P. (3 April 1984). "2-Acetyl quinoline thiosemicarbazones useful in treatment of gonorrhea, malaria or bacterial infections". uspto.gov. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  14. ^ "C&EN's Top 75". Chemical & Engineering News. 76 (2): 171–185. 12 January 1998. doi:10.1021/cen-v076n002.p171. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  15. ^ "Samuel P. Massie Academy". Retrieved February 25, 2021.
  16. ^ "Samuel Massie's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  17. ^ Simpson, Anne (9 January 1986). "Starting the New Year With a Party". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  18. ^ "MASSIE, GLORIA T." Washington Post. 26 January 2005. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  19. ^ Massie, Samuel P.; Hayden, Robert C. (2005). Catalyst: The Autobiography of an American Chemist. Laurel, Maryland: Self-published. p. 61.

External links[edit]

Preceded by President of North Carolina Central University
Succeeded by