The Life and Science of Percy Julian
Activities and Readings
3A (Reading)

A Day in the Life of Julian the Teacher

When Percy Julian wasn’t going to school, he was usually teaching. In between getting his master’s degree and starting work on his Ph.D. in Vienna, he taught at two schools, West Virginia State College and Howard University.

Julian worked hard at being a teacher. He stayed up late at night preparing lessons. He wore his long white lab coat to class. According to his students he was a gifted teacher. At West Virginia State, Julian was the only chemistry teacher. That meant he had to take care of routine paper work, cleaning, and maintenance on top of teaching.

The labs at West Virginia were old and out-of-date. Howard, one of the best black colleges of the time, was better than West Virginia, but the labs were still outdated compared to what Julian had to work with when he was at Harvard. The libraries at these schools weren’t as good either.

Since Julian was head of the chemistry department at Howard, he had to do all of the department’s paper work and was also responsible for designing the new chemistry building. As a teacher, he was not very well paid, and money was often scarce for Julian.

Later, when Julian was a researcher at DePauw (1932–1936), he also taught classes in organic chemistry. Here Julian once again demonstrated his dedication as a teacher. Instead of just lecturing, he gave each student a research project. Every day he checked in on their progress. He also wrote papers about the results of the students’ experiments. (This was hard work. Since he there were no computers back then he had to type all the papers on a manual typewriter.) Julian would send the papers to chemistry journals so chemists around the world could read about the research his students were doing.

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