This Day in Black History: Nov. 27, 1923

Mathematician J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. was born.

Posted: 11/27/2012 05:24 PM EST
J. Ernest Wilkins Jr.

(Photo: Dan Dry/University of Chicago)

At a time when the U.S. yearns for more African-Americans and other minorities to enter the science, technology math and engineering fields to maintain its global competitiveness, what would it give for more people like J. Ernest Wilkins Jr.

Born on Nov 27, 1923, he entered the University of Chicago at age 13 and left with a Ph.D. in mathematics at the tender age of 19 in 1942. The prodigy also earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from New York University.

During the course of his impressive career in academia and industry, Wilkins held several prestigious positions. He taught at Tuskegee Institute and worked at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project in the Metallurgical Laboratory.

He was a mathematician at the United Nuclear Corporation of America and held other positions before retiring from the industry in 1985 as a Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. In 1990, he became Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at Clark Atlanta University.

Wilkins also received many honors, and in 1976, became the second African-American to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering, one of the field's highest honors.

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