Musings of a Native Son

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My story begins in Montreal on August 6, 1931, the day before my father died. I was not quite five years old, and I was the fourth of six siblings that my mother was left to raise—at the height of the so-called Great Depression. I trace and comment on my life struggles through public school, high school, and thence to my first university degree. Throughout, I faced the dual problem of going to school without having the mandatory fees. But I point out that I completed my education debt-free, never having applied for or received a student loan. I also reveal how I coped with the double-edged difficulty of being both black and ambitious, while persevering in a mostly unwelcoming white-dominated environment. Then I tell how I managed to overcome numerous obstacles, to obtain a doctorate (in organic chemistry), and eventually go on to become a pioneering Canadian-born black scientist and educator—more than forty years ago. Parenthetically, the pivotal breakthrough in my professional career took place at about the same time (1947) in the same city (Montreal), that Jackie Robinson was making his breakthrough into organized baseball. So in every sense, this is the story of a “native son.” Thomas “Tom” F. Massiah

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