February is Black History Month. Learn more about some of the many African American scientists and engineers who have made important contributions to science history.

Photo collage of eight African American scientists and engineers

Black History Month: 19 Scientists to learn more about!

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.

Alice Ball: a chemist who developed an injectable treatment for leprosy. (Biography)
Interested in chemistry and medicine? Learn more with science projects like: Why Aren't All Medicines Pills? and Determine the Identity of an Unknown Chemical Substance
Learn more about related careers: Chemist, Biochemist, Chemical Technician
Patricia Bath: an ophthalmologist who developed laser technology used in treating cataracts. (Biography)
Interested in eye science and vision? Learn more with science projects like A Chromatic Adaptation Project and Discover the Science Behind Afterimages
Learn more about related careers: Optometrist, Physician
Herman Branson: a physicist who co-discovered the alpha helix protein structure and conducted research on sickle cell anemia. (Biography)
Interested in human biology and health? Explore science projects like From Genes to Genetic Diseases and Why Do Some People Respond to Drugs Differently than Others?
Learn more about related careers: Physicist, Bioinformatics Scientist, Cytogenetic Technologist
George Carruthers: an astrophysicist who developed the ultraviolet camera/spectrograph used during the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. (Biography)
Interested in ultraviolet imaging and space science? Explore science projects like Seeing Beyond the Visible, Seeing into Space
Learn more about related careers: Physicist, Astronomer, Aerospace Engineer, Mechanical Engineer
Emmett Chappelle: 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)
Interested in bioluminescence or agricultural technology? Explore science projects like: Investigating Glow-in-the-Dark Dinoflagellates and Smarter Farming with Aerial Photo Analysis
Learn more about related careers: Biochemist, Chemist, Agricultural Technician
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)
Interested in insects? Explore science projects like: Does Temperature Affect the Rate of Butterfly Development? and Drawing Circles Around Ants
Learn more about related careers: Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist, Biologist
Marie Daly: a chemist who studied the relationship between cholesterol and heart health. (Biography)
Interested in human biology and heart health? Explore science projects like: The Factors That Affect Blood Flow Rate and A Day in the Life of Your Heart
Learn more about related careers: Chemist, Biochemist, Physician, Cardiovascular Technologist or Technician
Mark Dean: 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)
Interested in computer engineering? Explore science projects like: Focusing Signals for a Better Wireless Network and What Materials Can Block a Wi-Fi Signal?
Learn more about related careers: Computer Hardware Engineer, Computer Software Engineer
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)
Interested in human biology and the science of blood? Explore science projects like: Blood Clotting to the Rescue and How Are Antibodies Used for Blood Typing?
Learn more about related careers: Physician, Medical & Clinical Laboratory Technician, Cytotechnologist
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)
Interested in aeronautics and space science? Explore science projects like: The James Webb Space Telescope's Amazing Multiple Mirrors and Sunshield and Asteroid Mining
Learn more about related careers: Astronomer, Aerospace Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician
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)
Interested in stealth technology or inventing new things? Explore science projects like: How to Make an Aircraft Invisible to Radar and Engineer a Cell Phone Stand
Learn more about related careers: Nuclear Engineer, Nuclear Monitoring Technician, Aerospace Engineer, Industrial Engineer
Percy Julian: 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. (Biography)
Interested in chemistry? Explore science projects like: Cold Pack Chemistry
Learn more about related careers: Chemist, Biochemist, Pharmacist
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)
Interested in engineering, math, or the science of flight? Explore science projects like: Satellite Science, Bottle Rocket Blast Off!, Helicopter Liftoff, and The Science of Catapult Statistics Learn more about related careers: Mathematician, Aerospace Engineer, Computer Programmer
Gladys West: 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 scibuddy@sciencebuddies.org with your comments or story.

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