J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr.

in 1998

Born: November 27, 1923

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois

A.B. Mathematics (1940) Uiversity of Chicago; M.s. Mathematics (1941).

Ph.D. Mathematics
(1942) University of Chicago

thesis: *Multiple Integral Problems in Parametric Form in the
Calculus of Variations*; Advisor: Magnus Hestenes

**additional degrees**: Bachelors of Mechanical Engineering
(1957) New York University; Masters of Mechanical Engineering
(1960) New York University

Research Interests: Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Physics, Nuclear Engineering

** **Clark Atlanta
University

**Click, for Dr. Wilkins'
Research**

At the age of 13 in 1936, Jesse Ernest Wilkins,
Jr. entered college at the University of Chicago and at 17, received
his **A.B.** in Mathematics and ranked in the top 10 in Mathematics'
famous undergraduate Putnam Competition. At the age of 19, in
1942, he became the seventh African American to obtain a **Ph.D.**
in Mathematics (from the University of Chicago). He was described
in national newspapers as "the Negro genius." After
working as a mathematician for many years, Dr. Wilkins sought
to get some practical education. Wilkins was the second African
American to be named to the National Academy of Engineering.

Early in his career Wilkins, Jr was insulted by the American Mathematical Society and has never since attended an AMS Meeting in the Southeast. Lee Lorch recorded this piece of history about Wilkins and racism in mathematics in 1947:

Wilkins was a few years past the Ph. D. ... He received a letter from the AMS Associate Secretary for that region urging him to come and saying that very satisfactory arrangements had been made with which they were sure he'd be pleased: they had found a ``nice colored family" with whom he could stay and where he would take his meals! The hospitality of the University of Georgia (and of the American Mathematics Society) was not for him - he refused. This is why the meeting there was totally white.

Immediately after the Ph.D. Wilkins was a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Study at the completion of his appointment, no research university would employ him. Thus, much of Wilkins' active career was with government or industry and all of his academic career was in HBCU institutions: Tuskegee, Howard, and Clark Atlanta.

Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. was Instructor of
Mathematics at the Tuskegee Institute from 1943-1944, Associate
Physicist to Physicist on the Manhattan Project from 1944-46.
From 1946-1950 he worked in Buffalo New York as a Mathematician
for the American Optical Company. During this time he married
Gloria Stewart in 1947 they had two children, Sharon and J. Ernest
III. From 1950-65 he served as a Senior Mathematician, Manager
of Physics and Mathematics, and Manager of the Nuclear Development
Corporation of America. In 1957 he obtained a **B.M.E.** (Bachelors
of Mechanical Engineering) from New York University. In 1960 he
earned an **M.M.E.** (Masters of Mechanical Engineering) from
New York University.

From 1960-70, Wilkins was Assistant Chairman of the Theoretical Physics Department and Assistant Director of the Atomic Division of General Dynamics Corporation from 1960 to 1965. In 1970, Dr. Wilkins was appointed as Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematical Physics at Howard University. Dr. Wilkins was a joint owner of a company which designed and developed nuclear reactors for electrical power generation.

Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. is a past President
(1974) of the American Nuclear Society. One of Wilkins' major
achievements has been the development of radiation shielding against
gamma radiation, emitted during electron decay of the Sun and
other nuclear sources. He developed mathematical models by which
the amount of gamma radiation absorbed by a given material can
be calculated. This technique of calculating radiative absorption
is widely used among researchers in space and nuclear science
projects. In 1976, Wilkins was inducted into the **National Academy
of Engineering**.

J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. is certainly one of the greatest Black Mathematicians.

videocassette: **Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr.** __Optimization
of extended surfaces for heat transfer__. A joint AMS-MAA lecture
presented in Baltimore, Maryland, January 1992. AMS-MAA Joint
Lecture Series. American Mathematical Society, Providence, RI,
1994. 1 **videocassette** (NTSC; 1/2 inch; VHS) (60 min.);
sd.; col. ISBN: 0-8218-8090-X

**Go to page 2: Wilkins'
Research**

**References: [Dr. Wilkins' Keynote Address at CAARMS5], [agwu-nkwanta],
[Donaldson],
[Kenschaft1987],
[Kenschaft-pre],
[Newell], [gov
page on Wilkins sr],**

**SUMMA Wilkins web site: http://www.maa.org/summa/archive/WilkinsJ.htm**

Below is a photo [by David Eisenbud] from a November 2003 80th birthday celebration held at the home of David Eisenbud for J. Ernest Wilkins (in the brown suit). Among those present was David Blackwell (behind Scott Williams, off Wilkins right shoulder), Hugo Rossi, Robert Megginson, David Ellis and Roseyn Williams.

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