Women’s History Month  – Marguerite Thomas Williams

Women’s History Month – Marguerite Thomas Williams

Women’s History Month

Marguerite Thomas Williams

UDC Alum: First African American to Earn a Ph.D. in Geology

Marguerite Thomas Williams, born in Washington, DC in1895, was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in geology in the United States. Williams was mentored by African-American biologist Ernest Everett Just.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Howard University in 1923. Williams found work as an assistant professor at Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C., where she was chair of the Division of Geography between 1923 and 1933. She was allowed a leave of absence so that she could pursue a master’s degree at Columbia University, which she received in 1930.

Williams continued teaching at Miner for a decade before she earned her doctorate in geology from Catholic University in 1942. Her dissertation titled “The Study of the History of Erosion in the Anacostia Drainage Basin,” examined a local geological feature. Williams sought to explore the factors that eventually led to the erosion observed in the Anacostia River. Her dissertation was published by Catholic University of America Press.

After Williams earned her Ph.D., she was promoted to full professor at Miner. Her career focused on teaching rather than research. Williams taught classes in geography and the social sciences, and taught night courses at Howard before retiring in 1955.

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