Prominent African-American Mathematicians

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Prominent African-American Mathematicians

Wendy A. Tillman

Florida Technical College

Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. exemplifies and is addressed as one of America’s admirable unorthodox mathematicians. He was portrayed as the University of Chicago’s youngest student at the tender age of thirteen. Wilkins proceeded to his education there, earning his bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in mathematics. When he finished his Ph.D. at 19, he was recognized by the national press as a “negro genius.” (

Jesse Ernest Wilkins taught at the Tuskegee Institute (1943-1944) prior returning to the University of Chicago to contribute to the Manhattan Project (1944-1946). He then entered industry, advancing to high positions at: American Optical Company (1946-1950), United Nuclear Corporation (1950-1960) and General Atomic Company (1960-1970). He also earned bachelor and master degrees in mechanical engineering from New York University (1957, 1960). In 1970, Wilkins became the Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematical Physics at Howard University. He was remembered as being very inspirational to his students and for starting Howard’s Ph.D. program in mathematics. (

J. Ernest Wilkins is a member of various professional societies and has been awarded several honors in his distinguished career including: President of the American Nuclear Society (1974-1975), Council Member of the American Mathematical Society (1975-1977) and Outstanding Civilian Service Medal by the U.S. Army (1980). He has published numerous papers in mathematics, optics and nuclear engineering. His greatest contribution to scholarship is the development of mathematical models to explain gamma radiation and his subsequent work on developing a shielding against gamma radiation. (

A fifth grade gifted program provided accessibility to William A. Massey to the introduction of...
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