St. Elmo Brady, a former Tuskegee University faculty member and the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, was honored by the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Feb. 5 with a National Historic Chemical Landmark. The designation, which coincides with Black History Month, was celebrated at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which awarded Brady his doctorate in 1916.
“Brady’s most enduring legacy involves his efforts to enhance and create undergraduate curricula, graduate programs and fundraising efforts at four historically black colleges and universities: Fisk University, Tuskegee University, Howard University and Tougaloo College,” said Jonathan Sweedler, Ph.D., director of the UIUC’s School of Chemical Sciences. Each of those campuses will host a celebration of Brady’s achievements and mount a plaque in his honor.
“This landmark designation recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and leadership impact that Dr. Brady has had on the chemical profession,” says ACS Immediate Past President Peter K. Dorhout, Ph.D., UIUC alumnus who presented the university with a bronze plaque about Brady at the designation ceremony.
Brady was born in 1884 in Louisville, Kentucky. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Fisk in 1908, he taught for four years at Tuskegee and then earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois. He returned to Tuskegee to teach for four more years, then continued his career at Howard and Fisk — where he served as chair of the chemistry departments — and at Tougaloo. Brady died in 1966.
ACS established the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program in 1992 to recognize seminal events in the history of chemistry and to increase awareness of the contributions of chemistry to society. Past landmarks include the discovery and production of penicillin, the invention of synthetic plastics, and the works of such notable scientific figures as educator George Washington Carver and environmentalist Rachel Carson.
The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies.