The Life and Science of Percy Julian
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Ernest Everett Just (1883–1941)

Ernest Everett Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina. His father and grandfather both died when he was only four years old. After he finished elementary school, his mother moved the family north so her children could get better educations than they would have received in the segregated South. They settled in New Hampshire, where Just was a star student in high school and then graduated with honors from Dartmouth College with a degree in biology in 1907. He went to work at Howard University but managed to juggle his teaching at Howard with doing research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts and studying for his Ph.D. He earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1916.

Racism was always standing in the way of Just’s career, so in 1929 he left the United States to work in Europe. He first worked in Italy but then moved to Berlin in 1930. He worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin until 1933. That year, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany. To escape the Nazis and their racist policies, Just left Germany and eventually settled in France, working at the University of Paris. He stayed in Paris even after World War II broke out in 1939. When the German army conquered Paris in 1940, Just was captured and held as a prisoner of war for a short time. After he was released to U.S. officials, he returned to Howard University. But by then he was too sick with cancer to teach classes. The cancer claimed Just’s life in 1941, a little more than a year after he returned to the United States.

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