February 15, 2017
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. Ronald Mickens.
Ronald Mickens was born in Petersburg, Virginia on February 7, 1943 to Daisy Brown Mickens and Joseph Mickens. Mickens spent much of his youth with his maternal grandparents, and his grandfather, James Williamson, was responsible for introducing him to science. By the time Mickens was eight years old, he knew he wanted to become a scientist. Mickens attended Peabody High School in Petersburg where he took algebra, plane and solid geometry, chemistry, biology, and physics. Because he took courses during the summer, Mickens graduated early at the age of seventeen. After high school, Mickens entered Fisk University with a full scholarship where he studied chemistry, mathematics and physics. He graduated in 1964 with his B.A. degree in physics and one of the highest academic averages in the history of the school. Mickens immediately enrolled in a graduate program at Vanderbilt University where, in 1968, he received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics.
Dr. Mickens returned to Fisk University as a faculty member in 1970 and later worked at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics, from which he was recruited to what was then Atlanta University in 1981. His research focuses on nonlinear dynamics and mathematical modeling, including applications of these tools to modeling the dynamics of disease. He became the Fuller E. Callaway Professor of Physics at Clark Atlanta University in 1986. Mickens was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1999, with the citation "For his sustained service to the physics community and his original contributions on the applications of mathematics to the study of physical systems." Dr. Mickens was awarded the Edward A. Bouchet Award from the American Physical Society in 2008.
Dr. Mickens has had an interest in the history of black scientists, throughout his academic career. He has served as the historian of the National Society of Black Physicists and has published histories of black physicists as well as biographies of black women in science. Dr. Mickens was also a co-founder of the National Conference of Black Physics Students and he was a member of the founding council of the Edward Bouchet Abdus Salam Institute, an organization founded in 1988 by Nobel laureate in physics Abdus Salam to encourage collaboration between African and American physicists, where he continues to serve as a council member.