On a new roster of the world's most distinguished chemists -- Madame Curie, Linus Pauling, big names like that -- there are only three black scientists.

One is the famed agricultural scientist George Washington Carver, who a century ago transformed the economy of the South by developing new industrial uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another is Percy Julian, a pioneering chemist.

And the third is the only one still alive -- Samuel P. Massie, professor emeritus at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Though proud to be named to an elite industry list of the all-time top 75 distinguished contributors to the field of chemistry, Massie, now 78, welcomed the news with the breezy modesty that has marked a lifetime of remarkable achievements, one that gave him key vantage points to both the development of the atomic bomb and the civil rights turmoil of the 1960s.

"You do what you can do in that regard," the Laurel resident said.

A pioneer in silicon studies and the Naval Academy's first black professor, Massie is one of only 32 living scientists on the list compiled last month by Chemical and Engineering News to mark the magazine's 75th anniversary. The list includes 35 Nobel Prize winners and celebrated names like Kodak founder George Eastman, DNA researchers James Watson and Francis Crick, and plutonium discoverer Glenn Seaborg.

Born in North Little Rock, Ark., Massie rushed through school, graduating at age 13. As a young child, he got a head start on his peers by following his schoolteacher mother around from class to class, enabling him to skip grades three years in a row. Today, his personal experience has left him a believer in classrooms blending multiple grade levels.

"Young children don't all learn at the same rate," he said.

Attending A.M.N. College -- now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff -- Massie was drawn to chemistry studies after becoming fixated on finding a cure for his father's asthma. After graduating at age 18, he launched into graduate studies at Fisk University and Iowa State University, where he worked on the Manhattan Project team, trying to convert uranium isotopes to a usable form for the atomic bomb.

After working as a teacher at Fisk University and Howard University, Massie was named president of North Carolina College in 1963, as the civil rights movement was taking hold in the region.

"Kids marching around the place, waving signs, singing We Shall Overcome,' " Massie recalled. "They were fun times."

Massie was hired by the Naval Academy in 1966 -- a time when Annapolis was still so segregated that he and his wife, Gloria, now a psychology professor retired from Bowie State University, were unable to find a home they wanted. Real estate agents wouldn't even take them to certain exclusive neighborhoods.

But Massie said he was unruffled by his introduction to the military college, where the vast majority of students were white in the mid-1960s.

"It wasn't difficult for me because I understood chemistry," he said. "I just had to make sure we understood each other."

While at the academy, Massie pursued research into anti-bacterial agents, and with some colleagues and midshipmen students was awarded a patent for a chemical effective in fighting gonorrhea. He also conducted environmental research at the Navy's David Taylor Research Center outside Annapolis, studying chemicals to prevent the growth of barnacles on ship hulls and developing protective foams to guard against nerve gases.

Massie said he found the academy, with its stringent admissions standards and emphasis on technical education, a luxurious teaching environment.

"Scholarship is emphasized here -- you knew you could expect certain things of your students," he said. "You had enough money to have the proper equipment, and students could afford all their books," unlike students at some of the civilian colleges where he taught.

Massie said midshipmen were sometimes baffled by his unorthodox way of scoring exams -- two points for each question they got right, but 50 points subtracted for each one they got wrong. He was trying to prove a point to them:

"Everything in life doesn't have the same value," he said. "It depends on the circumstances." CAPTION: Samuel P. Massie, on campus of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he is professor emeritus. He was included among Chemical and Engineering News magazine's top 75 chemist.