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This Math Genius Started College at 13-Years Old and By 19 Had Already Earned His Ph.D


Born in 1923, J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. was a prominent African American mathematician and physicist. As a child, he was of the youngest students to ever attend college, enrolling at the University of Chicago when he was just 13-years old.

By the time he was 17-years old, Wilkins had already completed his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. In 1942, at the age of 19, he became the seventh African American to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the university.

Wilkins researched methods for producing fissionable nuclear materials, focusing in particular on plutonium-239, in collaboration with Arthur Compton and Enrico Fermi, who later went on to create the first-ever nuclear reactor.

Wilkins was often referred to by the media as a “negro genius”.

He sadly died in 2011, but his legacy lives on.


Written by PH

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