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Euphemia Lofton Haynes, the first black woman to earn a PhD in Mathematics

July 19, 2019 at 11:00 am | History

Nii Ashaley Asé Ashiley

Nii Ashaley Asé Ashiley | Contributor

July 19, 2019 at 11:00 am | History

Euphemia Lofton Haynes engaged with the blackboard. Image source: twitter.com

Persons who have made it their mission to understand the nature of our universe have over the past millennia submitted that the universe is organized in a precise mathematical framework, such that all that happens in the world above and below is actually an effect of a series of mathematical causes. The Fibonacci Sequence, the Phi and the Golden Ratio are but few examples of the numerous numerical frameworks woven into the make of our world.

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A graphical representation of the Golden Ratio.
Image source: livescience.com

So, every generation births its own share of persons who are endowed with the natural ability to understand the mathematical language of our universe, using the messages therein to elevate the quality of lives of the masses.

One of such ‘number prodigy’ was the elegantly beautiful Euphemia Lofton Haynes. Born Martha Euphemia Lofton into an influential and wealthy parenthood in 1890 on the streets of Washington D.C, little Euphemia relished the innocence of her childhood in relative comfort, with the ease of access to schools of good academic standing. She was also a gifted youngster whose climb up the academic and social ladders were made feasible given her high level of intelligence and warm social skills.

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The gifted Euphemia attained High School education in 1909 at Washington’s Miner Normal School; here, her dedication to work, passion for leadership and commitment to duty was unmatched and this saw the young prodigy sail through her academic journey with impressive records.

Four years after High School, Euphemia stepped up her ‘academic identity’ with a Bachelor’s degree, taking up major studies in Mathematics with a minor focus on Psychology in 1913. The period from 1913 when Euphemia chalked her undergraduate success to 1930 when she bested her Master’s in Education from the University of Chicago was one marked with personal initiatives as well as communal duties all geared towards improving upon education, promotion of cultural and racial integration within schools and communities as well as provision of avenues that afforded poor African-Americans and other children of ethnic minority background the opportunity of a decent and an affordable formal education.

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Euphemia Lofton Haynes in an ‘academic’ portrait.
Image source: youtube.com

In the year 1930, Euphemia Lofton Haynes (Haynes was the name of her husband; Harold Appo Haynes whom she married in 1917) established the Department of Mathematics at Miners Teacher’s College where she played leadership and administrative roles. Other academic roles and leadership positions taken up by the brave, fierce and intelligent Euphemia Lofton Haynes not necessarily tied to the early part of the 1900s included; Teacher of mathematics at Armstrong High School, Department Chair of Dunbar High School’s math department and as an English teacher at Miner Normal School. These responsibilities Euphemia accepted because of her love for examining the best methods of teaching and learning, and her passion for creating opportunities for the growth for all.

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Euphemia at her passion.
Image source: arxiv.org

Euphemia Lofton Haynes earned her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in 1943 at the Catholic University of America. Her strong association with Catholicism and the Catholic church saw her serving its members as the Vice-president of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, and upon her death on July 25th, 1980, she is said to have gifted in trust an amount of $700,000 to the Catholic University of America where she attained her famed doctorate, a qualification that catapulted her into historical limelight as; The First Black Woman to Earn a PhD in Mathematics.

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