Herman Russell Branson (August 14, 1914 – June 7, 1995) in Pocahontas, Virginia was an American physicist, chemist, best known for his research on the alpha helix protein structure, and was also the president of two colleges. Dr. Herman Branson, a Black physicist, former Howard University president, who correctly modeled the first protein alpha helix. Played a key and unrecognized role in the characterization of protein structure.
Dr. Herman Branson, a Black physicist, former Howard University president, correctly modeled the first protein alpha helix. Played a key and unrecognized role in the characterization of protein structure.
Branson received his B.S. from Virginia State College in 1936, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cincinnati, under the direction of Boris Podolsky, in 1939. His thesis was in three parts, the first involved the interaction of x-rays with Tubifex tubifex (or sludge worm), the second involved the design and construction of an X-ray intensity measuring device, and the third section on the quantization of mass using the Dirac Equation. After a stint at Dillard University, he joined Howard University in 1941 as an assistant professor of physics and chemistry. As a scientist, Branson made significant contributions to how proteins work, and how they contribute to diseases such as sickle cell anemia. He remained at Howard for 27 years, achieving increasingly important positions, eventually becoming head of the physics department, director of a program in experimental science and mathematics, and working on the Office of Naval Research and Atomic Energy Commission Projects in Physics at Howard University. One of his students would include Marie Maynard Daly who was the first woman of color in the United States to earn her doctorate in Chemistry.