Ernest E. Just

Quick Look At Just

Ernest Everett Just was a biologist best known for his work with human development, and he was on of the first Black Americans to be recognized worldwide for his work as a scientist.

Early Life

Ernest Everett Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina on August 14, 1883. In high school, Just was supposed to attend a college prep school in his home state, but he believed that he'd get a better education in the North. In 1900, Just enrolled in Kimball Union Academy. Despite enrolling in a Northern school, he was still the only Black student in his school, but this Northern school would likely be more accepting of him than the school in South Carolina. Just proved to be an intelligent scholar, and after high school, he attended Dartmouth College. After reading a paper on fertilization and egg development, Just gained an interest in biology. He was elected into the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity and was recognized for receiving the highest grades out of everyone in a Greek organization during his freshman year. Just was also recognized as a Rufus Choate Scholar for two years straight. When he graduated, he was the only magna cum laude student from his school. Magna cum laude is an academic recognition awarded for students who have achieved a lot during their years in college.


After college, Just took a job teaching at Howard University. He taught Rhetoric and English. While at Howard, Just help to found Omega Si Phi, the Black Greek fraternity founded at an HBCU. Omega Si Phi was founded in 1911. After teaching at Howard, Just began working at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. While working there, Just decided that he wanted to earn his doctorate. in the sciences. He used a self-study program at the University of Chicago, earning his doctorate in zoology in 1916. Right before earning his doctorate, Just earn the NAACP's first Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by a Black American. He published over 50 scientific papers and two medical books. Unable to find work due to discrimination, despite his success and having a doctorate, Just moved to Italy. He continued researching here until in 1930, he was one of few selected to research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Germany. In doing so, he broke history by becoming the first American to ever be invited to research here. Just researched for three years until the Nazis took over Germany. When this happened, he moved to Paris, France to continue researching. When the Germans invaded France, Just actually became a prisoner-of-war for a brief time period before being rescued by the U.S. State Department in 1940. This is when Just returned to America. He had been sick for months, and his conditioned worsened when he was being held as a prisoner-of-war. Just died on October 27, 1941, from pancreatic cancer.

In his career, Ernest E. Just published papers that helped many scientists, he helped found Omega Si Phi, he made history multiple times, he overcame racial barriers, and he inspired many scientists to follow in his path. Ernest E. Just made a difference.