Open main menu
Jeannette Brown in 2014

Jeannette E. Brown (born May 13, 1934[1]) is a retired American organic medicinal chemist, historian, and author.

Life and educationEdit

Brown was born in 1934 in The Bronx, New York. She was inspired to study chemistry by her childhood doctor.[2] Brown excelled in particular in chemistry, scoring 98 out of 100 on the New York State Regents chemistry exam.[2] Brown attended high school on Staten Island.[2][3] Brown earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry at Hunter College in 1956, one of two African Americans in the inaugural class of Hunter's chemistry program.[4] In 1958, she became the first African American woman to achieve a master's degree from the University of Minnesota in organic chemistry.[5]

Research careerEdit

After receiving her master's degree, Brown began work as a research chemist at CIBA Pharmaceutical Company, where she was involved in research programs for drug development targeting tuberculosis and coccidiosis. She moved to Merck in 1969, where she co-authored 15 publications, obtained one patient and contributed to 5 others.[2] Brown's work focused on synthesizing novel medicinal compounds. She worked to develop the compound cilastatin, part of the antibiotic Primaxin (imipenem/cilastatin).

From 1993 to 2002 she was a faculty member at the New Jersey Institute of Technology,[3][4] where she also helped recruit black students to enter STEM fields and worked on science education issues in the state.

Brown has also devoted significant professional effort to diversity and outreach projects; she served on the National Science Foundation Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women Minorities and Persons with Disabilities and was the historian of the American Chemical Society's Women Chemist Committee.[6] As a historian of science, Brown has contributed biographical profiles to the African American National Biography Project[3] and is the author of the 2011 book African American Women Chemists, which profiles early African American women in chemistry.[7] Her second book African American Women Chemists in the Modern Era focuses on contemporary women who have benefited from the Civil Rights Act and are now working as chemists or chemical engineers.


In an interview with the University of Minnesota, Brown advises young women entering the scientific fields to plow ahead despite the inevitable slights that will come their way. “You just got to keep going,” she said. “You can't stop. If you stop, you're not going to get what you want.”[8]

“Go straight for a Ph.D. Do not stop at a master's degree,” she said. “If you're a Ph.D., then you're the boss.”[8]




  1. ^ "Brown, Jeannette E. (Jeannette Elizabeth), 1934- - LC Linked Data Service (Library of Congress)". Retrieved 2015-11-13.
  2. ^ a b c d "Making a Difference with Research: Profile of Jeannette Brown". American Chemical Society. 27 Feb 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "Jeannette Brown". The HistoryMakers African American Oral History Video Collection. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b Grezlla, Paul (March 16, 2012). "Chemical reactions Hillsborough chemist shares pioneering stories of black women". My Central Jersey. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  5. ^ "Jeanette E. Brown, Chemist, Historian, and author of "African American Women Chemists," to Speak August 18". Berkeley Lab. 30 July 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Chemist Becomes Historian". North Jersey Section – American Chemical Society. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b Neal, Sharon L. (2 April 2012). "Black Women, Chemistry Pioneers". Chemical & Engineering News. 90 (14): 46–7.
  8. ^ a b "Jeannette Brown: Compounding chemicals | College of Science and Engineering". Retrieved 2019-03-08.
  9. ^ "ACS Fellows". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 21 February 2016.