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Eureka Staff

Black History Month: More Notable Scientists

For Black History Month, we celebrate a pioneering doctor and a plant geneticist who tackled food security

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler: First Black American woman to earn a medical degree

Title page from A Book of Medical DiscoursesDr. Crumpler (1831-1895) was born free in Delaware, but grew up in Pennsylvania with her aunt, who was well known in her neighborhood for helping the sick. Inspired by her aunt, Dr. Crumpler (born Rebecca Davis) moved to Massachusetts and became a nurse, eventually enrolling in the New England Female Medical College in 1860, one year before the Civil War. She moved to Richmond, Virginia after the war in 1865, specifically to help newly freed slaves, especially women and children. In 1883 she published her book A Book of Medical Discourses, which she dedicated “to mothers, nurses, and all who may desire to mitigate the afflictions of the human race.”

Gebisa EjetaGebisa Ejeta: Ethiopian-American plant scientist developed hardy sorghum

Dr. Ejeta (1950-), Distinguished Professor and current Director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security, was born in the rural village of Wollonkomi, Ethiopia. His mother encouraged him to pursue his education, which at first involved 20km walks to and from the school he attended during the week. Dr. Ejeta earned his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics in 1978 from Purdue University, where he teaches today. His work on sorghum, a staple crop, earned him the World Food Prize in 2009. He developed a hybrid variety that was drought-tolerant, pest-resistant, and high yielding, and which was released in 1983 in the Sudan, where it out-performed traditional sorghum varieties by up to 100%. His work has been cited over 7,000 times, and includes breakthrough research on controlling the parasitic Striga plant.