Born August 14, 1883, in Charleston, South Carolina. Ernest Everett Just was an African American biologist and educator who initiated many areas of developmental physiology, including fertilization, experimental parthenogenesis, hydration, cell division, dehydration in living cells, and carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation on cells. A legacy of achievements followed him long after his death on October 27, 1941.
Ernest Everett Just was born on August 14, 1883, in Charleston, South Carolina, son of Charles Frazier and Mary Matthews Just. Known as an intelligent and curious student, he had just studied at the Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire before enrolling at Dartmouth College.
It was during his university years that Ernest Everett Just discovered an interest in biology after reading an article on fertilization and egg development. This brilliant young man got the most mark in Greek in his first year and was selected as a Rufus Choate scholar for two years. He graduated as the only magna cum laude student in 1907 and received honors in botany, sociology, and history.
Ernest Everett Just’s first job after graduation was as a lecturer and researcher at the traditionally black Howard University. Later, in 1909, he researched the Woods Hole Marine Biology in Massachusetts. He has just continued his studies with a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago, where he studied experimental embryology and obtained a magna cum laude diploma.
Ernest Everett Just pioneered in many areas of developmental physiology, including fertilization, hydration, cell division, dehydration in living cells, and the effects of carcinogenic ultraviolet radiation on cells.
He also worked as editor-in-chief for three scholarly periodicals and, in 1915, won the first NAACP Spingarn medal for the outstanding achievement by a black American. From 1920 to 1931, he was a member of Julius Rosenwald, a biology researcher at the National Research Council, which allowed him to work in Europe when racial discrimination hampered his opportunities in the United States.
Meanwhile, Just has written numerous research articles, including the 1924 publication “General Cytology,” which was co-written by prominent scientists from Princeton University, University of Chicago, National Academy of Sciences, and the Marine Biological Laboratory.
Hugely respected in his field, the notable black scientist Charles Drew called Just “a biologist with unusual abilities and the best of our original thinkers in the field.”
Ernest Everett Just’s New World View
“Europe had opened up Just’s science, which gave him the confidence to take bold steps in his scientific work,” wrote Manning. “He went from experimental details to broader philosophical views; He sought a new worldview through a great alliance of different sciences, history, and philosophy.” In 1938, Just was almost out of money when he embarked on a self-imposed exile in Europe. The scientist went to France, where he and Hedwig worked in a station Biologique in Finisterre district and completed what he considered his greatest achievement, the book The Biology of the Cell Surface.
In October 1939, the station Biologique received orders from the French government to close its facilities to foreigners; Just and Hedwig decide to stay in the French port city of Roscoff anyway. Ernest Everett Just wrote an article titled “Unsolved Problems of General Biology” for the periodical publication of Physiological Zoology. In which he expresses what he believes to be the most critical need in biology, to find “what exists in any protoplasmic system, cellular or otherwise, is the life of the substance. An article of reflection on the biology’s unanswered questions presented the results of Ernest Everett Just’s synthesized research, suggested useful avenues for future research. It also called for the collaboration of scientists from different disciplines (chemists, biologists, and physicists) to resolve the dilemma “how life begins, how it goes,” and how it is transmitted. “It was his last completed work, and he justified the work of his life, writing that in the final analysis, chemistry and physics depends on biology” to determine, beyond question, the criteria of normality, the
range of standard processes and degree of normal variability.”
Ernest Everett Just Personal life
Just married high school teacher Ethel Highwarden on June 26, 1912, and they had three children together, Margaret, Highwarden, and Maribel, before divorcing in 1939. That same year, he married Hedwig Schnetzler, a philosophy student whom he met in Berlin. In 1940, the German Nazis imprisoned Just in a camp, but with the help of his wife’s father, he was released. After leaving France, the couple gave birth to a daughter, Elisabeth.
Earnest Just died of pancreatic cancer in Washington, D.C., October 27, 1941. He is buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Suitland, Maryland.