Marron William Fort

The first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in any engineering field. He also was the first African-American to earn a doctorate from MIT, graduating with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering in 1933.

Marron William Fort ‘26, SM ’27, PhD ’33 studied at Cambridge High and Latin School and enrolled at MIT in 1922. He earned all three of his degrees from the Institute: SB (1927) and SM (1927) in Electrochemical Engineering, and PhD (1933) in Chemistry (Course V). He paid his way through graduate studies with a teaching job while residing with his parents in Cambridge. Fort, one of the first black students to earn a PhD from MIT, completed a doctoral dissertation entitled “Heat of Dilution of Hydrochloric Acid by Continuous Flow Calorimetry”.

After MIT, Fort served as chief chemist, plant superintendent, and vice-president of A. and G. Caldwell, Inc. in Newportberry, MA, where he was the only black officer and stockholder in the company.

In 1954, the Eisenhower Administration appointed Fort business adviser to Middle East chemical industry leaders, with the task of planning a vast expansion program in the region. Jet Magazine (1 April 1954) hailed him as the “highest Negro assigned to a technical post in a foreign country”. Among the other two black, foreign appointees selected at the time was Emmett J. Scott ’21, officer and field engineer for the Foreign Operations Administration at Amman, Trans-Jordan. Fort relocated with his wife Alice and two sons to serve as deputy chief Industrial and Transportation Division for the U.S. Operations Mission, International Co-op Administration in Turkey and chief in Pakistan.

Fort died in Washington on September 18, 1961 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 1973, the Institute established the Fort Fellowship:

“Strenuous efforts have been made over the past five years to increase the number of minority graduate students, to provide them with special tutorials and counseling service, and to assist them with financial support…Special attention has been devoted to encouraging MIT minority undergraduates to pursue their graduate education at MIT. The Fort Fellowship, named in honor of one of the first black Americans to receive a Doctor of Philosophy at MIT was established and will be awarded to the most promising senior minority student who has been accepted for graduate study at MIT.”