Ernest Everett Just (1983-1941) was a pioneering African American biologist who broke through racial barriers and conducted groundbreaking research in cell biology. Just's primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. A Ph.D. recipient in experimental embryology from the University of Chicago, Just started his career teaching at Howard University, where he headed the Zoology and Physiology Departments and taught in the Medical School. Afterward, Just became the first American to be invited to conduct research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. His work there ended when the Nazis took control of Germany in 1933. However, this did not deter Just's zest for scientific research. In the following decades he won international fame, publishing fifty scientific papers and two influential books, ‘Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Mammals’ (1922) and ‘Biology of the Cell Surface’ (1939). For his incredible work, he was elected to several professional societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Zoologists, and the American Ecological Society. On top of that, the NAACP awarded Just with the first Spingarn Medal for Outstanding Achievement by a Black American.
In 1903, Just enrolled at Dartmouth after graduating from Kimball Union Academy, a private boarding school with a long affiliation with the College. At Dartmouth, Just received a small scholarship, but had to work to pay his bills. In the early part of the 20th century, Dartmouth was a rough place for students of lesser means—all students of color. But it was during his university years that Just learned about fertilization and egg development, which started his lifelong passion in biology. His academic performance was peerless. In 1907, Just graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth as the only magna cum laude recipient in his class, winner of virtually every senior class prize, and as that year's Valedictorian.
Today, Dartmouth has found numerous ways to pay homage to the lifetime work of a man who once wrote, "Life is the harmonious organization of events." In 1981, the University established the Ernest Everett Just '07 Professorship in the Natural Sciences. Later, Dartmouth established the E.E. Just Program, which seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minorities who choose to pursue degrees and careers in STEM disciplines. In addition, Dartmouth regularly plays host to the E.E. Just Symposium and the E.E. Just Science Forum. These events provide a unique opportunity for members of the Dartmouth community to interact with top scholars across the spectrum, while also recognizing the legacy of one of the University's greatest scientific minds.