Blanche J. Lawrence (1921-?) graduated from Tuskegee University before going on to work as a technician and then junior chemist on the Manhattan Project. We don’t have a lot of biographical details about Blanche, that we do comes from a September 1949 issue of Ebony Magazine in an article focusing on “Atom Scientists.”
We know she was at Tuskegee University and likely graduated during WW2 (around 1943). While at university she belonged to the Physical Education Club and the Creative Dance Group. On graduation she started in the Health Division of the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory, known as the “Met Lab“. This lab was established in February 1942 to study and use the newly discovered chemical element plutonium. It formed part of the Manhattan Project – the Allied effort to develop the atomic bomb.
She was one of the few African-American women working in science of her day. Most African American’s were only given the opportunity to work as janitors and laborers. She progressed quickly starting as a technician and within 5 years later she became a junior biochemist at the same lab.
After World War II, she continued working at the Met Lab’s successor, Argonne National Lab.
I’d love to know more about Blanche. If anyone has more information please let me know. Below are the main sources of information I have used in writing this piece:
- Atom Scientists”, Ebony, September 1949, 26-28
- “IN LOS ALAMOS, I FEEL LIKE I’M A REAL CITIZEN”:BLACK ATOMIC SCIENTISTS, EDUCATION, AND CITIZENSHIP, 1945-1960, Shane Landrum, May 13, 2005 [PDF]