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Roger Arliner Young: Zoologist

September 14th, 2011

Nicole Reynolds

Professor Zaidman

FSEM Beauty and Brains

September 14, 2011

       Roger Arliner Young was not a very accomplished scientist. She never really received any recognitions or awards. She just barely received her PhD from University of University of Pennsylvania after failing the qualifying exams for the doctorate program at theUniversityofChicago. Although she never received any awards or recognitions for it, she did conduct some great research involving radiation on areas of development of sea urchin embryos. She was also one of the very few women allowed entry to conduct research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole,Massachusetts; a very prestigious institution.

            Depending on how you look at it, Young could either be a good role model or a bad role model. She could be viewed as a bad role model because she never did achieve success in the world of male-dominated science, and due to the pressure of that society she snapped and checked herself into a mental asylum. However, she could also be viewed as a cautionary tale. She was an individual with a lot to over come. Not only was she a woman, but she was also black, and she received criticism from both ends of the spectrum. She was also poor and in debt, and also the primary caregiver for her sick mother. For someone with so many obstacles to overcome, you can view her work as a success.

Annotated Bibliography


Primary Sources


Young, Roger Arliner. With L. V. Heilbrunn. “Indirect Effects of Radiation on Sea Urchin Eggs.” Biological Bulletin. 69 (1935): 274-279.

            This is a scientific journal written by Young and he colleague Heilbrunn on their experiment which makes it very credible. This source talks in depth about an experiment that Young conducted and I can use it to demonstrate some of the professional work she did. In this experiment sea urchin eggs were added to a vial and left to form a concentrated suspension. Then sea water was added. The eggs were irradiated then inseminated.  The cleavage time was delayed, but it was even more delayed when ovarian issue was present.


Secondary Sources


Hammonds, Evelynn. “Roger Arliner Young.” In Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Darlene Hine, 1298-1299. New York: Carlson, 1993.

This source is credible because it cites sources that have already been determined to be credible. I can use this to compare the facts and perspectives to the other sources I found. This article is almost identical to the other secondary sources but states in more detail that after leaving Shaw University, she help appointments at four colleges: North Carolina College (again), Paul Quinn College in Texas, Jackson State College in Mississippi and Southern University in Louisiana.


“Young, Roger Arliner (1889-1964).” Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science. 2000.

            This source is credible because it cites several primary and secondary sources. I used this to find all of the other sources I cited, but it is also useful because I can compare all the other secondary sources on her life to determine the accuracy of all of them. This article shed a more  positive outlook on her career, however, the author stated that her failure of her exams were due to depression, and that she struggled with depression for the rest of her life, but there was never any evidence of that stated in this specific article.


Young, Roger Arliner. With D. P. Costello. “The Mechanism of Membrane Elevation in the Egg of Nereis.” Biological Bulletin 77 (1939): 311

This source is an abstract of an experiment that Young performed with Costello, therefore it is a credible source. This was an actual experiment that she conducted after her failure of her qualifying exams so it will be useful in using her scientific findings and compare them to her mental/emotional status at the time. The experiment was based on the theory that “certain agents may induce the formation of a very wide perivitelline space in the Neris egg. There were two stages of the experiment. Costello used Alkaline NaCl. When placed in NaCl, the uninseminated egg elevates the membrane and the space keeps getting wider until the membrane ruptures, and the ovum is free. He then tried to inseminate the eggs after they were returned to sea water and was unsuccessful. Young on the other hand used x-rays. After being exposed to x-rays, they were then inseminated and a similar result happened. In some cases the penetration of sperm was never complete.


Warren, Wini. Black Women Scientists in theUnited States.Indiana:IndianaUniversityPress, 1999, print.

This book was very useful and factually accurate, however, a few parts of it were possibly a bit opinionated, so it wasn’t extremely credible. I expect to use this as a more general explanation of her professional life instead of the specifics of her scientific work. This source starts off with a vague history of her life then launches into the specifics of her college life and her professional life after. Roger Arliner Young was born in Clifton Forge, VA in 1889 and enteredHowardUniversityin 1916 to major in music. In the spring of 1921 she enrolled in her first biology class taught by Professor Earnest Everett Just. She graduated with her baccalaureate degree in 1923 and was immediately hired by Just as an assistant zoology professor. In 1924 she enrolled as a part time student at theUniversityofChicagoand earned her master’s degree in zoology in 1926. she aided Just in his teaching duties and conducted research at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole,Massachusetts. In 1930 Young failed her qualifying exams and was denied acceptance into the doctorate program atUniversityofChicago. Her career after this steadily declined, but in 1937 she was accepted into the doctorate program atUniversityofPennsylvaniaand received a two year grant to study there. She graduated in 1940 but had to borrow money for her last year which put her even farther into debt. After graduation she taught atNorth CarolinaCollegeandShawUniversity. She soon after checked herself into Mississippi Mental Asylum in Whitfield and was discharged in 1962. Her last position was as a temporary visiting lecturer at Southern University inLouisiana.


Young, Roger Arliner. “The Effects of Roentgen Irradiation on Cleavage and Development of the Annelid, Chaetopterus pergamentaceus.” Biological Bulletin 75(1938): 378

This source is an abstract from Young’s dissertation for her doctorate degree, therefore it is credible. I can use this to go into specifics about some of the research she did. For the experiment she exposes “Chaetopterus eggs to 7800r per minute for varying lengths of time and under varying conditions in order to compare the direct and indirect effects of Roentgen irradiation.” For the varying conditions, she exposed the eggs free in sea water which showed slight acceleration in first cleavage but decrease in the rate of development. For the eggs that were irradiated with pieces of egg sac had no change in regular rate of cleavage, but development was slow and slightly abnormal. Eggs irradiated in the egg sacs showed delay of cleavage and abnormalities in development. The second part of the experiment measured the indirect effects. Some eggs were exposed but immediately removed from the exposure site and they showed no radiological effects on cleavage or development. Other eggs were removed from the site some time after the other eggs and they showed similar effects. Basically this meant that the effects of the irradiation spread beyond the region directly exposed.

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