Carolyn B. Parker
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About Carolyn B. Parker

Carolyn Beatrice Parker was born in Gainesville in 1917 during the Jim Crow era. She was educated and graduated magna cum laude from a segregated Tampa public high school. She then went on to graduate magna cum laude from Fisk University in 1938 with a bachelor's degree in physics and earned a master's degree in physics at the University of Michigan in 1941. In 1951, Ms. Parker entered the physics graduate program at M.I.T. where she earned a second master's degree in physics in 1953, then completed coursework for a Ph.D., and was elected to the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Honor Society. She was unable to complete the defense of her doctoral dissertation and graduating because she contracted leukemia and died at the age of forty-eight in 1966.

A true "hidden figure," Carolyn Parker was recruited while in her twenties to Chicago as a research physicist with the top-secret Dayton Project, a division of the Manhattan Project where she faced significant racism and sexism, and worked with the highly radioactive material Polonium. In 2008, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health determined that leukemia was an occupational risk of working with polonium.

Ms. Parker continued to work as a research physicist at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio until 1947. From 1947-1951, she taught as an assistant professor at Fisk. In 1952, she was employed as a physicist in the geophysics research division at the Air Force Cambridge Research Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a leading research laboratory that emerged from the closure of the M.I.T. Radiation Laboratory and the Harvard Radio Research Laboratory after World War II.