Herman Branson

Harmar celebrates Black History.
Throughout February, we’ll be shining a spotlight on pioneers, innovators, difference makers, and history shakers that have shaped our world.
Herman Branson was a pioneering biophysicist whose early work lead to a critical discovery in molecular structures.
Born in Virginia in 1914, Dr. Branson would earn a Bachelor of Science degree from what is now Virginia State University. After his undergraduate work, Branson moved on to the University of Cincinnati to study physics and earn his Ph.D. in 1939. From here, Dr. Branson began a long and distinguished career in academia.
In 1944, Dr. Branson was named the Chair of the Physics Department at Howard University. He would take a brief leave from this role in 1948 to join Linus Pauling at the California Institue of Technology. In this time with Pauling, Dr. Branson’s work was instrumental in defining the very structure of protein; proving the Alpha Helix and the Gamma Helix.
Pauling was initially somewhat dismissive of the findings, but would later go on to publish the work under his own name. In 1954, Pauling was awarded the Nobel prize for contributions to Chemistry and Dr. Branson was barely noted as a third author on the paper.
Driven by the importance of education, Dr. Branson stayed at Howard University for 27 years, teaching and leading programs. He also led two Universities in his later career as school President, ultimately retiring in 1985.
Beyond his critical contribution to the understanding of the structure of protein, Dr. Branson was instrumental in raising tens of millions of dollars for educational institutions throughout his career.
Harmar salutes Dr. Herman Branson.