Turner, Thomas W. | Studies of the Mechanism of the Physiological Effects of Certain Mineral Salts in Altering the Ratio of Top Growth to Root Growth in Seed Plants

  • The uncommon offprint of the dissertation of Thomas W. Turner (1877-1978), the first Black American to earn a PhD in botany and a prominent activist.

    Turner was the child of formerly enslaved Maryland sharecroppers. Though raised Catholic, he was refused admission to local segregated Catholic schools and attended Episcopal schools instead. After being accepted at the Howard University Prep School he walked the fifty miles from his home to Washington D. C., and eventually graduated from Howard University in 1901. Turner’s master’s degree and PhD were both earned at Cornell, though he took time off to teach at the Tuskegee Institute and several high schools and colleges; took graduate courses at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and worked as a cytologist for the US Department of Agriculture. “Throughout his career Turner would be consulted by the American government about agricultural problems” (Krapp, Notable Black American Scientists, p. 303).

    “As a well-respected botanist and biologist, his areas of interest... were plant physiology and pathology; physiological effects of mineral nutrients on root growth in seed plants; and physiological effects of nitrogen and phosphorous on plants. Turner was the first Black man to present a paper to the Virginia Academy of Science, and for many years was the organization’s only Black member from south of Philadelphia” (Krapp).

    In 1924 Turner became a faculty member at the Hampton Institute, where he was “a key figure in advancing the institution’s natural science curriculum. In 1977 the school honored him by renaming its science building Turner Hall” (Krapp). He had “long been interested in science education, especially in traditionally Black colleges. He organized the Virginia Conference of College Science Teachers in 1931... he was motivated to form the group because he noted that historically Black colleges were involved only minimally in the advancement of science and its education. During 1942-43, Turner studied science teaching at 32 Black colleges, and he produced several papers on the topic. He noted that science was still not being taught for its own sake, but to prepare students for other careers. His work was key in founding the National Institute of Science, of which he was the first President” (Krapp). In addition to his educational activism, Turner established the Federation of Colored Catholics to counter racism in the Catholic Church and he also participated in the founding of the NAACP.

  • ...Investigations Carried in the Laboratory of Plant Physiology, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Reprinted from American Journal of Botany, Vol, IX, No. 8, October, 1922. American Journal of Botany, 1922.

    31 page pamphlet. Original grey wrappers printed in black. Typographic tables within the text. Typewritten correction slip pasted to the bottom of page 434. Contemporary library shelf number ticket to the upper wrapper. Wrapper edges tanned and a little curled and nicked at the top edge, title leaf protruding from the wrappers and so a little ragged along the fore-edge. A very good copy.