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First African-American chemistry Ph.D., former faculty member honored with landmark

February 07, 2019

Joan Coyle, American Chemical Society
Michael Tullier, APR, Tuskegee University Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing

St. Elmo Brady
St. Elmo Brady - Photo Credit: University of Illinois Archives

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. Additional information about Brady’s life and achievements can be found at

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. For more information, visit

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.

ACS offers a variety of resources for Black History Month. They include:

An infographic about Brady, George Washington Carver and three other African-Americans who have made notable advances in the chemical sciences in the past 170 years

A celebration of the achievements and contributions of 11 African-Americans who overcame great odds to pioneer some of the most important scientific discoveries and developments in U.S. history

Videos about African-American chemists: Five black chemists who changed the world (which highlights the work of George Washington Carver) and Spotlighting black chemists and chemical engineers

Previously dedicated landmarks for African-American chemists George Washington Carver, Percy Julian and Norbert Rillieux.

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