Dr. Joan Murrell Owens

Dr. Joan Murrell Owens, PhD

Dr. Joan Murrell Owens was a marine biologist who classified the genus of Rhombopsammia, a type of button corals and three new species. From an early age, Owens was drawn to the oceans and wanted to become a marine biologist. In 1950, she enrolled in Fisk University, but they did not offer any marine biology courses. She majored in fine arts and then taught English at Howard University. In 1970, she was able to construct her own marine biology degree by majoring in geology and minoring in zoology. Because she suffered from sickle cell anemia, she wasn’t able to research life underwater, so she worked with the Smithsonian and studied existing samples of button corals. She received her PhD in 1984 and continued to teach at Howard until her retirement in 1995.

Learn more at Smithsonian.

« View All Historical Women