The Contributions of Black Women in S.T.E.M.

As Black History Month comes to an end, I often think about the women who inspired me to go into Technology. So, I wanted to pay tribute to five black women who made it possible for myself and others to go into the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

  • Mae Jamison, MD – Before space, she was studying for a degree in chemical engineering at Stanford University. She then received a medical degree from Cornell University Medical College in 1981. She became an astronaut after a few years as a medical practitioner and Peace Corps medical officer. In September of 1992, she became the first African American woman to travel in space.

  • Katherine Johnson – She is known as one of NASA’s human computers. When she was 18, she graduated with degrees in mathematics and French. After NACA folded into NASA in 1958, she became part of the team with calculations for sending people into space. Johnson’s work was crucial for sending Alan Shepard into space in 1961. Her calculations were also counted on to send John Glenn into orbit in 1962 and Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969.

  • Mamie Phillips Clark, Ph.D. – Mamie and her husband, Kenneth, worked to create some of the important psychology research into racial biases. Their influential work, “the doll test”, was cited in the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954. This study gave proof on how African American kids were given negative messages about themselves at a very early age.

  • Patricia Bath, MD – She is known for her work in ophthalmology, the study, and treatment of eye issues. She started her work after noticing patients with severe eye issues in the Harlem Hospital. It became an inspiration for her study of blindness in the Black community. In 1983, she became the first woman to be appointed to chair an ophthalmology program in the U.S. In 1986, she invented a new tool for cataract surgery called the Laserphaco Probe.
  • Helen Octavia Dickens, MD – Before becoming the first African American woman to be admitted to the American College of Surgeons, she became the first to be a board-certified OB/GYN in Philadelphia. She was interested in helping young women with their sexual health. Her work helped with teen pregnancy, cervical cancer, and lowered the rate of STIs.

Once again, I thank all of these women for inspiring African American women, like myself, to never limit ourselves. It is more than art and writing. We can become a mathematician, engineer, teacher, or doctors. Nothing is impossible because of these women!

Happy Black History Month!