Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Workday Wednesday : Scientist

By U.S. Department of Energy ( [Public domain]
 via Wikimedia Commons

One of the unexpected pleasures of researching your family history is coming across an individual who played a part in history. I was simply looking for birth, marriage, and death records for some first cousins, once removed, the children of my grandfather’s siblings. My research led me to a learn more about a noted scientist in our family, Jesse Dean Perkinson, Jr.

Jesse was born in Tennessee, the son of a railroad conductor and a teacher. He was listed as a student in both the 1920 and 1940 federal censuses. Thanks to the abbreviated curriculum vitae I found in a conference report, I learned about Jesse’s education.(1)  After receiving his BS from the University of Tennessee, he later earned a PhD in biochemistry in 1943 at the University of Rochester.

 From the late 1940s to 1952, Jesse, now Dr. Perkinson, was a senior research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.(1) Late, he was affiliated with the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis, Tennessee where he was worked in the area of cancer research.(2)

In 1957, Jesse was tapped to be the head of the Education and Training Branch of the Division of International Affairs of the Atomic Energy Commission.(3) Through this position, he was involved in helping other countries explore the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
Dr. Jesse Perkinson, after two years with the AEC, joined the Pan American Union as Chief of Science Development. He continued to work in this capacity for a number of years even after this entity became known as the Organization of American States.  The website of the John F Kennedy Presidential Library includes several photos showing Jesse meeting with President Kennedy during his tenure with the Pan American Union.

Learning more about Jesse Dean Perkinson, Jr, lead me to examine a number of collegiate and scientific journals. My favorite reference to Jesse was in a calendar of upcoming events at Walla Walla College in 1969. The listing referred to Jesse as the person ... “who implemented the Eisenhower Atoms for Peace plan … an authority on the peaceful use of nuclear energy and … presently chairman of the American Inter-Nuclear Committee.”(4)

One individual, working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, involved in Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Plan, head of a Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, a scientific leader in the Pan American Union and the Organization of American States. Quite a brush with history, a veritable twentieth-century history lesson as seen through the life of one person, Dr. Jesse Dean Perkinson, Jr.

(1)   Mason, Henry Lea Herbert Steffen Peiser. Metrology and Standardization in Less-developed Countries: The Role of a National Capability for Industrializing Economies; Proceedings of a Seminar Held at Airlie House, Warrenton, Virginia, February 1-4, 1971. : National Bureau of Standards, 1971. Digital images. GoogleBooks. : 2015.
(2)   “U-T Awarded $4000 By Cancer Society”, Rogersville Review, 19 Apr 1954; digital images, (, accessed 3 Jun 2015).
(3)   “50 Years Ago”, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 4 Aug 2007; online archives (, accessed 3 Jun 2015).
(4)   “Walla Walla College", North Pacific Gleaner, 15 Sept 1969; digital images, Adventist Archives (, accessed 3 Jun 2015.

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