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A cover of math-physics-astronomy book about black history month.
Design by Katy Schaeffer

Visitors to the Penn Libraries can commemorate Black History Month through a number of curated book displays — including the first of its kind at the Math/Physics/Astronomy Library.

The inaugural Math/Physics/Astronomy Library Featured Book Exhibit features selected works in the Penn Libraries' collection authored by African American mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers. 

Of particular local interest are the Penn dissertations of Dudley Weldon Woodard, William Waldron Schieffelin Claytor, and George Hench Butcher, Jr., who were the second, third, and sixteenth African Americans, respectively, to earn doctorates in mathematics. Additional trailblazers with connections to the Philadelphia region include Benjamin Banneker, almanac author from 1792 to 1799, who accurately forecasted the April 4, 1789 solar eclipse; Edward Bouchet, the first African American to receive a doctoral degree (physics); Willie Hobbs Moore, the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics; and Shirley Ann Jackson, National Medal of Science recipient and first African American woman to earn a doctoral degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (theoretical elementary particle physics). 

The Penn Libraries also provides access to resources that offer insight into the experiences and multidimensional achievements of African American scientists and mathematicians. For example, The HistoryMakers, the largest collection of African American oral history videos, includes interviews with Shirley Ann Jackson; Derrick Pitts, Franklin Institute Chief Astronomer and Planetarium Director; and Larry Gladney, former Penn Associate Dean for Natural Sciences.

Black History Month also serves as the inspiration for two additional featured book displays in the Penn Libraries. The Highlighted Collection of the month, on display through the end of February near the information desk in the Biomedical Library, features print and eBooks focused on African American health topics. 

A selection of featured books in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center includes many titles that are also held by the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts in the Joanna Banks Collection, donated to the Penn Libraries in 2018. Among them are Lugenia Burns Hope: Black Southern Reformer by Jacqueline Anne Rouse; Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood, by bell hooks, and Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson. (Although the copies that are part of the Banks Collection do not circulate, many of the Banks titles are also available as circulating copies in the general collection.) This Featured Books display is located on the first floor of Van Pelt behind the circulation desk.

Titles in this Month’s Math/Physics/Astronomy Library Featured Books Exhibit

See below for a complete list of titles included in this inaugural display. The exhibit is located next to the New Books Display in the Math/Physics/Astronomy Library, on the third floor of David Rittenhouse Laboratory at 33rd and Walnut Streets.