Emmett W. Chappelle is the recipient of 14 U.S. patents and was recently recognized as one of the 100 most distinguished African American scientists and engineers of the 20th Century. Chappelle received a bachelor's of science degree in biochemistry from University of California at Berkley. He earned his master's of science degree, also in biochemistry, from University of Washington in Seattle and performed post-graduate work at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. From 1950 to 1955 he served as an instructor of biochemistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. From 1955 to 1959, he was a research associate at Stanford University. In 1958 Chappelle joined the Research Institute in Baltimore, a division of the Martin Marietta Corporation which was famous for designing airplanes and spacecraft. There, Chappelle discovered that even one-celled plants such as algae, which are lightweight and can be transported easily, can convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. This discovery helped to create a safe food supply for astronauts. Chappelle went to work at Hazelton Laboratories in 1963 as a biochemist. In 1966, he joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a research chemist, and later became a remote sensing scientist, studying natural systems to improve environmental management. While designing instruments for the Mars Viking spacecraft, he became interested in bioluminescence, which is warm light produced by living organisms. Chappelle used two chemicals from fireflies which give off light when mixed with ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy storage compound found in all living cells. This could provide a method of detecting life on Mars. Throughout his career, he has continued to mentor talented minority high school and college students in his laboratories.
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