December 03, 2013

On this day December 3rd...

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

Ralph Gardner was born on this day December 3, 1922 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a pioneer chemist whose research into plastics led to the development of so-called hard plastics. His innovations in the manipulation of catalytic chemicals led to the products for the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries as well as plastics. 

He worked under nuclear scientist Dr. Enrico Fermi and radioactivity scientist Dr. Nathan Sugarman. Gardner was one of more than a dozen black scientists who were involved in research on the atomic project. Those black scientists known to have been involved in the metallurgical laboratories also included Lloyd Albert Quarterman, Edward A. Russell, Moddie Taylor, Harold Delaney, Benjamin Scott, J. Ernest Wilkins, and Jaspar Jefferies. A second group at Columbia University included George Dewitt Turner, Cecil Goldsburg White, Sydney Oliver Thompson, William Jacob Knox, and George Warren Reid, Jr. Despite his work on the atomic bomb, Gardner could not find an academic position in his field when he left Argonne in 1947 so he worked as a waiter until 1949. 

Known throughout most of his life as Ralph Alexander Gardner, he added the "Chavis" surname late in his career in recognition of his relationship to John Chavis, the first African American to graduate from Princeton in 1760. He became a research chemist and project leader at the Standard Oil Company in Ohio in 1949, where he remained for almost 20 years. Gardner-Chavis completed his graduate studies at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, earning both a master's degree and Ph.D. in chemistry in 1952 and 1959 respectively. Gardner-Chavis then took a teaching position in Cleveland State University's Chemistry Department, where he remained full-time from 1968 to 1985. 

He later combined part-time teaching with work in the research lab of Molecular Technology Corp., a private firm where he also served as the Vice President of Research and on the board of directors. Dr. Gardner held emeritus status in the CSU Chemistry Department, where he continued his research on catalysis and molecular technology, topics on which he has published numerous scholarly articles. 

Dr. Ralph Gardner-Chavis became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity in 1942 and AICHE in 2001. 

Reference:Reference Library of Black America Volumes 1 through 5Edited by Mpho MabundaCopyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI

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