ERNEST EVERETT JUST
The First African American Marine Biologist
Ernest Everett Just born on August 14, 1883 was a pioneering Black Marine Biologist, and science writer. Just's primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms.
Just was an internationally acknowledged authority in the fields of fertilization and egg development. His accomplishments were enormous and enduring, despite the effects of racism in U.S. academic institutions, and his achievements continue to earn the respect of his peers to this day.
Born in a segregated South Carolina, Ernest Everett Just became one of the most highly respected scientists of his time, graduating magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1907, earning a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1916, and teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 1909 until his death in 1941. Critical to scientific reputation was his research at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, beginning in 1909. Just published more than 50 scientific papers based on his 20 years at Woods Hole.
In addition, Just published such books as “Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals” and “Biology of the Cell Surface”. He was the editor of three scholarly periodicals, and was the recipient of the first Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by a Black American, awarded by the NAACP, in 1915.
At the outbreak of World War II, Just was working in France. French government requested foreigners to evacuate the country, Just stayed to complete his work. In 1940, German Nazis imprisoned Just in France and place him in a concentration war camp. With the help of his wife, a German citizen, her father, and the US State Department he was released in September 1940. However, Just had been ill for months prior to his encampment and his condition deteriorated in prison. On the journey back to the U.S. In the fall of 1941, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and died.
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