Professor Margaret Collins -Black History Under A Microscope

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To celebrate Black History Month, we take a look at some inspirational figures who have excelled in their field and produced leading research around the world which we still rely on today!

Perhaps a less glamorous profession, but no less important, was the rigorous research on termites undertaken by Professor Margaret Collins; a prominent entomologist and zoologist. 

She was the first African American woman to be an entomologist and the third to be a zoologist in the United States, making significant contributions to both fields.

Collins was a child prodigy – she skipped two grades and graduated high school when she was only 14. She was also the first African American woman to receive a PhD in entomology at a major university, and was amongst one of the first African American women in the US to receive an advanced zoology degree.

She held tenure at three universities, was the President of the Entomological Society of Washington, authored or co-authored over 40 research publications, was a senior research associate at the Smithsonian, identified a new species of termite with her peer, David Nickle, and had the Collins Collection in the National Museum of Natural History named after her. 

Collins was brave and passionate when it came to challenging racial prejudice; she volunteered to drive less fortunate African Americans to work during a bus boycott, alongside publishing ‘Science and the Question of Human Equality’. 

Given her contributions to a more niche profession she is often not well known, but Collins was a leading figure in zoology and entomology, and provided much needed representation of African American women in science.  

image source: https://bioone.org/ContentImages/Journals/flen/99/2/024.099.0235/graphic/f01_334.jpg