Modern Black Scientists Making History

We’ve all learned in history class about some of the amazing black historical figures: Harriet Tubman, Zora Neale Hurston, and Frederick Douglas to name a few. Don’t get me wrong, of course they’re amazing and did incredible things for culture, freedom, music, you name it. But there are some pretty incredible black people doing revolutionary things today, especially in science. These brilliant minds are discovering new things every day while also making STEM fields more diverse. Here are just a few of the remarkable people making history right now:

1. Mae Jemison

This is a woman who has done it all. She graduated from Stanford University with a double major in Chemical Engineering and African/Afro-American Studies. She then got her M.D. from Cornell and practiced with the Peace Corps. Then, to top it all off, she got the call from NASA and spent eight days in space, researching the effects of weightlessness. She has nine honorary doctorates, seven published works, and was even in an episode of Star Trek!

2. Lonnie Johnson

            Remember the Super Soaker? How about the Nerf guns all of your friends had? Well, you can thank Johnson for creating both of those and making our childhoods a little more fun! On the other end of the spectrum, he was an engineer for NASA and helped get probes to both Jupiter and Saturn. Today, he’s developing technology to convert heat directly into energy to make our planet a little greener and healthier.

3. Patricia Bath

            Dr. Bath is a woman of “firsts”. She was the first female African-American to become an ophthalmologist, and she was the first female ophthalmologist to be a part of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. She then helped create the Ophthalmology Residency Program, becoming the first woman in the country to chair such a course. If that wasn’t enough, she also invented the Laserphaco Probe, which we still use to treat cataracts today! As a future physician, she’s one of my personal heroes.

4. James West

            If you use a phone, baby monitor, or hearing aid, you’ll want to thank this man because they all use his invention: the electret microphone that didn’t need a big bulky power supply to work. In fact, West has more than 250 patents relating to his work on microphones! He’s also a huge proponent for minorities and women working in science, and he is additionally on the board for the Ingenuity Project to help get talented middle- and high-school students into STEM fields.

5. Katherine Johnson

If you saw the movie Hidden Figures, you know exactly who this woman is (if you haven’t, go see it. now.). From a young age, Johnson had a talent for numbers, but she was stuck in a time when racism was still prevalent. And yet, she made it to NASA with a degree in mathematics and was integral to calculating flight paths for manned space missions. NASA even asked her to verify the computer’s calculations; that’s how good she was. Today, she lives quietly in Virginia after turning 100 years old last year.