Notable African-American Women in STEM

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to take some time to recognize important and influential African-American women in STEM and their contributions to history. These women have gone through racial and gender discrimination but have continued to work hard despite that. They deserve recognition for their work, not just this month but every month of the year. So here are just a few amazing African-American women in STEM.​ 

  1. Dr. Daly was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States from Columbia University. She later went on to teaching and conducting research. Daly first taught at Howard University and then moved on to teaching Biochemistry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In between, she researched the cell nucleus and its composition at the Rochester Institute of Technology

  2. Mary Jackson was the first African-American woman to work for NASA in 1958. She studied mathematics and physical science at Hampton University and went on to work at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). She soon decided to enroll in special training programs to become an aeronautical engineer. Due to the fact that schools were segregated, she needed special permission to obtain her training certification. After that, she went on to become an engineer in NASA. She also joined NASA’s Langley Federal Women’s Program to hire and promote the next generation of female scientists. 

  3. Dr. West is known for her mathematical contribution to help create the Global Positioning System, or GPS, as we know it today. She worked at the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory where she analyzed satellite data and conducted astronomical research proving orbital resonance in relation to Pluto and Neptune. Her work in analyzing satellite data and creating complex mathematical models helped her program the GPS. 

  4. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States. Her aunt lived in Pennsylvania and spent much of her time taking care of the sick. This is what may have influenced Crumpler’s career decision. Due to the fact that this occurred in the 1800s, there is not much documentation regarding Crumpler’s journey to obtaining an MD. We do know that she graduated from New England Female Medical College in 1864 and became the first African-American woman to have an MD in the US, encouraging all other black women to pursue their dreams in medicine. 

These are just a few influential ladies that broke racial and gender disparities in their time and worked hard to achieve their goals and became one of the greatest contributors to the STEM field. They serve as an example for the next generation of black women to encourage them that anything is possible and they, too, can pursue a career in whatever they desire—even if it is not part of the STEM field. So in honor of February being Black History Month, let’s take a moment to appreciate these wonderful black women who have changed technology, medicine, mathematics and research for the better.