Facebook Twitter

Donate to BlackPast Blog
  • African American History
  • African American History in the West
  • Global African History
  • Perspectives

NOTE: will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

1 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help in the Classroom

Quarterman, Lloyd Albert (1918-1982)

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Born May 31, 1918 in Philadelphia, Lloyd Albert Quarterman, a chemist, was one of the few African American scientists and technicians to work on the Manhattan Project, the top secret effort to design and build the atomic bomb during World War II.

Quarterman developed an interest in chemistry from a young age partly by using toy chemistry sets his parents gave him.  He attended St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina where he developed a reputation as a scholar and star football player.  After receiving his bachelor's degree from St. Augustine’s in 1943, he was quickly recruited by the War Department to work on the Manhattan Project.  Though he was only a junior chemist on the project, Quarterman had the opportunity to work closely with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and with Albert Einstein at Columbia University.  

Quarterman was a member of the team of scientists who isolated the isotope of uranium (U 238) necessary for the fission process, which was essential to the creation of the atom bomb.  Once the war ended, he continued to work at the University of Chicago’s laboratory hidden beneath the campus football stadium during the war and later rebuilt in a Chicago suburb and renamed the Argonne National Laboratory.  After the war, Quarterman returned to school and earned a master of science from Northwestern University in 1952. He would return to Argonne and remain at the national laboratory for the next thirty years.

Beyond his work on the bomb, Quarterman worked with fluoride solutions to create new chemical compounds and new molecules.  He was skilled at purifying hydrogen fluoride, a highly corrosive gas.  In 1967 he developed a corrosive resistant "window" made of diamonds in order to better study hydrogen fluoride.  His innovation was called the "diamond window."  He also created a xenon compound which surprised the world of chemistry because it was believed that xenon was an “inert” gas and supposedly could not be combined with other atoms.   At the time of his death, in 1982, Quarterman had initiated work on a project to develop “synthetic blood” but encountered ethical and political opposition to his research.

The atomic scientist was a member of Sigma Xi, the American Chemistry Society, the Society of Applied Spectroscopy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scientific Research Society of America, and the Chicago branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  He spoke often to young African Americans urging them to pursue careers in science.

Lloyd Quarterman died in Chicago, Illinois in July of 1982 at the age of 64.  Before his death, he had instructed that his body be used for scientific research.

Ray Spangenburg and Kit Moster, African Americans in Science, Math, and Invention (New York: Facts on File, 2003); Julius H. Taylor, et al., The Negro in Science (Baltimore: Morgan State University, 1955); Ivan Van Sertima, Blacks in Science: Ancient and Modern (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1991); Stephane Groueff, The Manhattan Project: The Untold Story of the Making of the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1967).


Case Western Reserve University

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2017 - v3.0 NDCHost - California | | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.