Black scientists have undoubtedly made a vital contribution to the world we live in. Yet the value of their contribution is often ignored or distorted by the history books. Just think about it – even today, most schools still teach a history curriculum that focusses on the achievements of white figures. Black History Month gives everyone the opportunity to celebrate and understand the impact of black heritage and culture. So, in light of this, our latest blog post champions the work of 8 black scientists past and present.
Mae Carol Jemison (1956 – present)
Engineer, Physician, and astronaut
American engineer Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.
Glady West (1930 – present)
Born and raised in Virginia, Gladys West leveraged her mathematical and programming expertise to invent an accurate model of earth which became the foundation for the creation of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Gladys was the second black woman ever to be employed by the Naval Surface Warfare Centre Dahlgren Division and for this reason she was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame.
Percy Julian (1899 – 1975)
Percy Julian was a research chemist and pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, such as cortisone, steroids and birth control pills. He was inducted into the National Academy of the Sciences, National Inventors Hall of Fame and the American Chemical Society in recognition of the undoubted contribution of his work.
Marie M. Daly (1921 – 2003)
Marie Maynard Daly was the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. She worked closely with scientist Dr Quentin B. Deming and their work opened up a new understanding of how foods and diet can affect the health of the heart and the circulatory system.
Alexa Canady (1950 – present)
Alexa Canady was the first female African American neurosurgeon in the United States, and subsequently became the first female African American to receive certification from the American Board of Neurological Surgery. She later specialized in paediatric neurosurgery and became the director of neurosurgery at the Children’s Hospital, where she guided the department to become one of the best paediatric neurosurgery facilities in the USA.
Walter Lincoln Hawkins (1911 – 1992)
Chemist and Engineer
Walter Hawkins is is best known for inventing a plastic coating for telephone wires which made universal service possible. In fact, he is widely regarded as the pioneer of polymer chemistry! Hawkins later received the National Medal of Technology and was deservedly inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Annie Easley (1933 – 2011)
Computer scientist, Mathematician, and Rocket scientist
Annie Easley worked at NASA as a “human computer,” performing complex mathematical calculations. She showed an incredible ability to adapt to the evolving technology, becoming an adept computer programmer who contributed to numerous projects.
George Washington Carver (1860’s – 1943)
Botanist, Inventor and Teacher
George Washington Carver was born into slavery, but nevertheless went on to become a leading botanist. He invented over 300 uses for the peanut and developed methods to prevent soil depletion. He subsequently went on to advise President Roosevelt on agriculture and nutrition, undoubtedly improving the lives of communities across America. Carver ultimately became a member of the British Royal Society of Arts — a rare honour amongst black scientists.
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