February is Black History Month. Learn more about 19 African American scientists and engineers.
In honor of Black History Month, we highlight 19 African American scientists and engineers who made important contributions to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). There are many, many scientists who could be included on this list! The list below is just a small sampling of noted scientists through history.
To encourage your students to learn more about these scientists and to explore related science projects and careers for scientists they find interesting, for each scientist, we have included a short biographical summary, links to 1-2 hands-on science projects related to the scientist's area of study, links to relevant science career profiles, and a link to a biography to learn more. Educators can use this career worksheet to guide student exploration and reflection about STEM careers.
: a chemist who developed an injectable treatment for leprosy. (Biography
: an ophthalmologist who developed laser technology used in treating cataracts. (Biography
: a physicist who co-discovered the alpha helix protein structure and conducted research on sickle cell anemia. (Biography
: an astrophysicist who developed the ultraviolet camera/spectrograph used during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. (Biography
: a biochemist who used bioluminescence as a way to quantify the presence of bacteria in water and showed how florescence can be used help monitor plant heath. (Biography
Margaret Collins and Charles Turner
: entomologists and zoologists. Collins, known as the "Termite Lady" for her extensive research on termites, co-discovered the Neotermes luykxi
species of termites. Turner's research on insects proved that insects can hear and led to the phrase "Turner's circling" to describe the way ants return to a nest. (Biography: Margaret Collins
, Charles Turner
: a chemist who studied the relationship between cholesterol and heart health. (Biography
: a computer engineer who co-developed the first personal computer. Additional contributions at IBM led to color monitors, the Industry Standard Architecture bus (which allows you to connect devices like printers to computers), and the first gigahertz chip. (Biography
Charles Richard Drew
: a physician who developed ways to use and preserve blood plasma that helped save lives during World War II and later became the model used for blood banks. Known as the "Father of the Blood Bank," Drew is also credited with the first bloodmobile. (Biography
Mae Jemison and Guion Bluford
: astronauts and aerospace engineers. Bluford was the first African American in space on the Challenger
's eighth (STS-8) space shuttle mission (1983). Jemison (also a physician) was the first African American woman in space on the Endeavour
space shuttle (1992). (Biography: Mae Jemison
, Guion Bluford
Lonnie G. Johnson
: a nuclear engineer and inventor who developed the popular Super Soaker water gun. Johnson worked on stealth technology for the U.S. Air Force and was a senior systems engineer on NASA's Galileo Project. (Biography
: a chemist known as the "Soybean chemist" because he synthesized steroids and hormones from soybeans. His research also led to the development of Aer-O-Foam, also called "bean soup," used to put out oil and gasoline fires in World War II.
Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson
: mathematicians and engineers whose work at NASA (first as "human computers") was depicted in the Hidden Figures
movie. As a mathematician, Johnson calculated the flight path for Alan Shepard (the first American in space) and later checked critical flight path calculations for Apollo 13. As NASA adopted the use of computers, Vaughan taught herself FORTRAN and became part of NASA's Analysis and Computation Division (ACD). Jackson was NASA's first black female engineer. (Biography: Katherine Johnson
, Dorothy Vaughan
, Mary Jackson
: a mathematician who worked on the processing and analysis of satellite data that helped lead to the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). (Biography
J. Ernest Wilkins Jr.
: a mathematician and nuclear scientist who was involved in the Manhattan Project. His work on nuclear reactor physics led to the discovery or co-discovery of phenomena like the Wilkins effect and the Wigner-Wilkins spectrum. (Biography
STEM Career Worksheet
To encourage students to learn more about these scientists and to explore related careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, use our free STEM Career Worksheet along with this post.
If you use the "Learn More About these 19 Scientists for Black History Month" and career worksheet with students, we would love to hear your feedback. You can email us at email@example.com with your comments or story.
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