10 Black Innovators Who Have Made an Impact in STEM
Since 1990, jobs in STEM have grown by 79%. But there is still diversity lacking in the STEM field.
According to Pew research center “Blacks make up 11% of the U.S. workforce overall but represent 9% of STEM workers.” So in honor of Black History Month, here are some amazing inventors and innovators who have changed the world in their STEM careers.
1. George Washington Carver
George Washing Carver, one of the most known African American inventors, was born into slavery but later became the first Black student at Iowa State Agricultural College. He is best known for coming up with about 300 uses for the peanut. Some of these included flour, paste, paper, soap, shaving cream, and even medicines.
2. Dr. Marie M Daly
Dr. Marie M Daly was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. She used her degree to become a biochemist. Much of her work contributed to what we know today about high cholesterol and its relation to heart disease. She also became a professor and taught biochemistry courses at Albert Einstein College.
3. Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson worked for NASA as a “human computer” where she would solve difficult math problems. She asked lots of questions and became more involved in other programs. Johnson then joined another task force in NASA where she “calculated the path for the Freedom 7, the spacecraft that put the first U.S astronaut in space.” She also was a huge part of the mission that successfully planned the first moon landing.
4. Vivien Thomas
Vivien Thomas started his career by working in a laboratory at Vanderbilt University where he learned many complex surgical techniques. While he worked at this lab, he was paid as a janitor even though he was doing amazing doctoral research. Thomas persevered and formulated a surgery that would successfully help save the lives of infants who were born with a heart defect that sends blood past their lungs. He went on to become the director of Surgical Research Laboratories at John Hopkins.
5. Dr. Warren Washington
Warren Washington received his Ph.D. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University and is currently a senior scientist at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). He is known for being an expert in climate research and has developed multiple computer climate models that show the impact of human activities on our future climate. He won the National Medal of Science in 2009.
6. Lyda Newman
Lyda Newman was an inventor who patented a new type of hairbrush that was specifically for African American hair. It has synthetic bristles instead of the typical animal hair. Her invention made it cheaper and quicker to manufacture hair brushes. She was only the third Black woman to ever receive a patent. She also was a significant women’s rights activist.
7. Bessie Blount Griffin
Bessie Blount was one of very few Black physical therapists in the late 1940’s. She used interpretive dance to help with her clients advance in therapy. After WWII, many veterans needed physical therapy and many were amputees. Blount used more innovative ways to help these patients by teaching them to use their feet. Another major accomplishment of hers was getting a patent for her invention the “Portable Receptacle Support.” This apparatus was a “tube was inserted into the patient’s mouth, and upon biting down on it, a small portion of food was pushed into his mouth.”
8. Alan Emtage
Alan Emtage was a systems administrator at McGill University. In 1989 he “conceived of and implemented Archie, the world’s first Internet search engine.” Many people refer to Archie as the Great Great Grandfather of Google. Emtage work with search engines and the internet, paved the way for many of the systems and processes we use when searching the internet today.
9. Frank Greene
Frank Greene was an Electronics Officer in the United States Air Force. During his time in the Air Force he “helped develop high performance computers for the National Security Agency.” After the Air Force, Greene developed a high speed computer memory system. He received a patent for the fastest memory chip (at the time). He then continued to share his expertise by teaching electrical engineering and computer science classes at multiple universities.
10. Nola Hylton
Dr. Nola Hylton received a BS in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Physics. She played an essential part in the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) research in the “detection, diagnosis, and staging of breast cancer.” She has become an international leader in the field of breast MRI. Hylton is currently a professor in Residence in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging as well as the Director of the Breast Imaging Research Group at the University of California in San Francisco.
While many of these amazing Black men and women were the first in their field or in their discoveries, they will certainly not be the last!