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Lloyd N. Ferguson Sr.

by Susan J. Ainsworth
March 12, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 11

Lloyd N. Ferguson Sr., 93, a professor of chemistry emeritus at California State University, Los Angeles, who worked to eliminate racial barriers for African Americans in the field of chemistry, died on Nov. 30, 2011.

Born in Oakland, Calif., Ferguson earned a B.S. in chemistry with honors in 1940 from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry there in 1943.

Unable to find employment with major chemical companies, which were not hiring African Americans, he accepted a position as an assistant professor at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College, in Greensboro. He joined the faculty at Howard University in 1945, establishing the first chemistry Ph.D. program at a historically black college or university.

Ferguson joined the faculty of Cal State in 1965 as a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry. He served as department chair from 1968 until 1971 and led the establishment of the university’s Minority Biomedical Research Support program, which continues to help underrepresented science students achieve their career goals. In his research, he sought to elucidate the relationship between molecular structure and biological activity, focusing on the sense of taste. He retired in 1986.

Ferguson received outstanding professor awards from Cal State and from the California university system. Cal State’s department of chemistry and biochemistry established the Lloyd Ferguson Distinguished Lecture Series in 1995 and named a new courtyard in his honor in 2011.

He was one of the founders of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers, which subsequently created the Lloyd N. Ferguson Young Scientist Award.

An emeritus member of ACS, which he joined in 1940, Ferguson served as chair of the society’s Division of Chemical Education and helped form Project SEED, a program for economically disadvantaged high school students. He received what is now the George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education from ACS in 1978. He wrote more than 50 scientific publications, four books, and three widely used organic chemistry textbooks.

Ferguson is survived by his wife, Charlotte; sons, Lloyd Jr. and Stephen; daughter, Lisa; and seven grandchildren.



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