African-American Pioneers in Science

Roger Arliner Young (1899 - 1964)

Roger Arliner Young Photo
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



Clifton Forge, Virginia


B.S. Zoology, Howard University
M.S. Zoology, University of Chicago
Ph.D. Zoology, University of Pennsylvania

  • Roger Arliner Young
  • African-American pioneer in zoology
  • First African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in zoology

Zoologist Roger Arliner Young was born on August 20, 1899 in Clifton Forge, Virginia. Little is known about her parents' background and occupations. In 1916, she entered Howard University to study music. At Howard she met zoologist Dr. Ernest Just who encouraged her to pursue a career in science. Ms. Young changed her major to zoology (animal biology) and in 1923 graduated from Howard with a B.S. in Zoology. After graduation, she became an instructor at Howard and entered the graduate program at the University of Chicago where she earned her M.S. in Zoology (1926). At the University of Chicago, Ms. Young became a member of Sigma Xi honor society and published her first research article, On the excretory apparatus in Paramecium in the journal Science. She became the first African-American woman to research and publish in the field of animal biology and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Pennsylvania (1940).

Throughout her career, and working with her mentor, Dr. Just, at Howard and at the well-known Marine Biological Laboratory, Dr. Young conducted work on paramecium, radiation effects on sea urchin eggs, hydration/dehydration of living cells and the fertilization process in marine organisms.

Later in her career, Dr. Young taught at North Carolina Central University, Shaw University (Raleigh, North Carolina), Jackson State University and Southern University.