You are here

Invited Paper Session Abstracts - The Life and Legacy of J Ernest Wilkins (1923-2011)

Saturday, July 29, 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Salon A-3

J Ernest Wilkins earned a PhD in Mathematics at the age of 19 from the University of Chicago. In 1942 he became the seventh African American to earn a PhD in Mathematics. In 1976 he became the second African American to be elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Wilkins’ career spanned academia, industry and government including the University of Chicago Met Lab during the Manhattan Project. He also helped establish the doctoral program in mathematics at Howard University. This session will share his impact in nuclear-reactor physics and optics, his plight of being a “negro genius”, and his impact on the mathematical community.

Ronald Mickens, Clark Atlanta University
Talitha Washington, Howard University
Ron Buckmire, National Science Foundation and Occidental College

J Ernest Wilkins, Jr.: My Friend, Colleague, and Collaborator

1:00 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.
Ronald E. Mickens, Clark Atlanta University

This presentation reviews my experiences, both scientifically and socially, with Professor Wilkins during his tenure at Clark Atlanta University (CAU). In addition to being friends and colleagues, I will share stories of our lively interactions with other prominent African American scientists. I will also share insight on his engaging teaching style as well as the nature of our scientific collaborations. Finally, I will discuss how his prestigious career path led him to be my esteemed colleague at CAU.

The Remarkable Wilkins Family

1:30 p.m. - 1:50 p.m.
Carolyn Wilkins, Professor Berklee College of Music
Sharon Wilkins Hill, PhD

We will discuss our Wilkins family, focusing on the achievements of J Ernest Wilkins Sr. as well as his wife Lucille and their three children. After placing these accomplishments within the larger historical context (black Chicago in the 1930s), Sharon Hill will offer some personal reflections on her father’s legacy.

J Ernest Wilkins at the University of Chicago

2:00 p.m. - 2:20 p.m.
Bob Fefferman, The University of Chicago

This will be a discussion of the extremely impressive career of J Ernest Wilkins as a student at the University of Chicago. I will also discuss some other examples of outstanding mathematicians connected with the University who are members of an underrepresented group.

My PhD Dissertation Advisor – J Ernest Wilkins

2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.
Cleo Bentley, Prairie View A&M University

In this talk, I will discuss my graduate experiences with Wilkins during my masters and doctoral programs at Howard University.

Dr. J Ernest Wilkins, Jr.: The Man and His Works

3:00 p.m. - 3:20 p.m.
Asamoah Nkwanta, Morgan State University

This presentation is based on a research study conducted while the author was a member of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) Institute in the History of Mathematics and Its Uses in Teaching (IHMT). In this presentation, we will highlight the significant contributions of the African-American educator and researcher in mathematics, physics and engineering - Dr. J Ernest Wilkins, Jr.

The Scientific and Mathematical Impact of J Ernest Wilkins

3:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Talitha Washington, Howard University

At the age of 19, J Ernest Wilkins earned a doctorate degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago. Even though he was unable to gain employment at a research university due to segregation, he made great impacts in the applications of mathematics. This talk will provide an insight and overview to Wilkins’ great contributions to solve problems in reactor theory and optics, as well as his work on the Manhattan Project.