Dr. Lloyd Noel Ferguson

Dr. Lloyd Noel Ferguson, born in Oakland in 1918, was a chemist, teacher, entrepreneur, mentor, and STEM literacy advocate. Despite growing up in poverty, he had a strong interest in chemistry during his childhood. He created his first lab in his backyard and made several inventions, some of which he sold. After high school he worked in construction and as a porter for a railroad company to save money for college. He received a BS (1936) with honors and PhD (1940) in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, becoming the first person in his family to attend college and the first African American to obtain a Chemistry PhD at Berkeley. His dissertation was entitled: “Absorption Spectra of some Linear Conjugated Compounds”. His thesis work had military applications as he tried to find materials that could release oxygen in submarines, if it was ever necessary.

As it was challenging for him to get into industry due to racism, in 1944 he was hired as an Assistant Professor at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College (NCAT) and then moved to Howard University in 1955. During his 20-year tenure at Howard he was a Full Professor of Chemistry and then the Head of the Chemistry Department. Here he helped establish the first doctoral program in Chemistry (1958) at any HBCU. He was elected to the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1952.  

He then joined the Chemistry Department at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he remained an additional 20 years until his retirement. He published more than 50 research papers and 8 textbooks. Through this time his work spanned the molecular differences between sweet and sour taste, structural biology, and cancer chemotherapy. Dedicated to advocating for increasing the numbers of Black and brown students, he developed programs such as Support of the Educationally and Economically Disadvantaged and the Minority Biomedical Research Program. He also co-founded the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) in 1972, which later named an award after him. Dr. Ferguson continued living in California after retirement until he passed away in 2011 at the age of 93.


  1. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/ferguson-lloyd-1918/
  2. https://chemistry.berkeley.edu/news/lloyd-noel-ferguson-research-chemist-and-educator 
  3. https://www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/lloyd-n-ferguson-41
  4. https://www.nobcche.org/LloydNFerguson#:~:text=Ferguson%20then%20earned%20his%20Ph,African%20American%20to%20do%20so.
  5. https://cen.acs.org/people/profiles/Six-black-chemists-should-know/97/web/2019/02