J. Ernest Wilkins Jr

Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. (November 27, 1923 – May 1, 2011) was an African American nuclear scientist and mathematician, who gained first fame on entering the University of Chicago at age 13, becoming its youngest ever student. His intelligence led to him being referred to as a “negro genius” in the media.

As part of a widely varied and notable career, Wilkins contributed to the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. He also gained fame working in and conducting nuclear physics research in both academia and industry. He wrote numerous scientific papers, served in various important posts, earned several significant awards and helped recruit minority students into the sciences.

During his studies and various careers he was not untouched by the prevalent racism that existed for much of his life.