31 Highly Influential African American Scientists

These 31 African-American men and women of science have helped further mankind's understanding of the world and universe around us.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
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These 31 Black American Scientists, like many others, have made significant contributions to their respective fields of science. They have all, in their own way, carved their place in history and helped further human understanding. 

This list is far from exhaustive and is no particular order.

1.Patricia Era Bath

Scientific discipline:  Ophthalmologist

Date of birth: 1942

Place of birth: Harlem, New York City

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (76 years old at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Patricia is best-known as the inventor of the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment that she patented in 1986. She was also the first African American to ever complete a residency in Ophthalmology in 1973.

Patricia also became the first female faculty member at the Department of Opthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. She would also establish the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976. 

During her fellowship in Ophthalmology at Columbia University, she discovered that African Americans were more likely to suffer from blindness and significantly more likely to develop glaucoma than other patients. 

Brief biography: Born in Harlem in 1942, Patricia be encouraged by her 'working class' parents to pursue her interests in science. This interest was cemented by an early present of a Chemistry set by her parents. 

After graduating from University she would go on to lead a fruitful career in ophthalmology with the 'cherry on top' being her invention of the Laserphaco Probe - making her the first African American female medical professional to earn a medical patent.

 

2.Harold Amos

Scientific discipline: Professor and Microbiologist

Date of birth: 1918

Place of birth: Pennsauken, New Jersey

Date of death (if relevant): 2003

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Harold Amos was the first African American Microbiologist and the first to become the department chair of Harvard Medical School. 

Harold made various high profile discoveries in his discipline including the finding of the 5-methylcytosine in the E. coli RNA and spearheading research into the use of bacterial RNA to program the synthesis of higher cell proteins, insulin etc. 

Harold was a well-respected educator too and often cited teaching as one of his many passions. he would receive many awards throughout his career including: the first Charles Drew World Medical Prize from Harvard University in 1989, an Honoris Causa doctoral degree from Harvard University in 1996, the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 2000, and the National Academy of Science’ highest honor, the Public Welfare Medal in 1995.

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Brief biography: Harold was born in Pennsauken, New Jersey in 1918. His parents had close connections with the Quakers who would often gift books to the Amos family - one of which was the biography of Louis Pasteur. 

This would spark an interest that would lead to a lifetime fascination into the microscopic world. Harold would serve in France during the Second World War. 

After returning home he began his studies into the biological and medical sciences in 1946. Once he'd collected various degrees and a Ph.D. he returned to France under a scholarship to the Pasteur Institute. 

He then returned to the U.S. to begin a lifelong career at Harvard University - where he would study and teach for the next 50 years. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Springfield College /Umbrasearch

3.Valerie Thomas

Scientific discipline: Chemist, Physicist and Computer Scientist

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Date of birth: 1943

Place of birth: Maryland

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (Aged 75 at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Valerie is a highly accomplished and talented African-American scientist and inventor. She is best-known as the inventor of the Illusion Transmitter that has proved highly influential for NASA research.

Valerie also helped develop the image-processing systems for LANDSAT (the first satellite to send images from space). 

Her invention would be widely adopted by NASA and is still used in the production of televisions and video screens. She held various senior roles at NASA including the Project Manager of the Space Physics Analysis Network and Associate Data Operations Officer.

Brief biography: Valerie was born in 1943 and after graduating with a degree in Chemistry she would begin a lifelong career working at NASA.

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After her many accomplishments at NASA, she finally retired from NASA in 1995. 

For her contributions to science, she would earn various NASA awards including the Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit and the NASA Equal Opportunity Medal. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

4.George Washington Carver

Scientific discipline: Chemist and Botanist

Date of birth: 1864

Place of birth: Missouri

Date of death (if relevant): January 1943

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: George almost single handily built the peanut industry in the United States. His research would help the impoverished farming industry of southeastern Alabama by educating them in crop rotation and plant fertilization.

He is, however, most famous for his work on peanuts that earned him the title of 'peanut man' for his introduction of the potential of it as a foodstuff. George also discovered the nutritional benefit of sweet potatoes. 

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His discoveries earned him several patents and the 1923 Spingarn Medal. He was also posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Brief biography: George was born into slavery during the American Civil War. He would later earn his freedom, receive a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science in 1894 and a master's in 1896. 

George spent an extended period of his career at the Tuskegee Institute where he would make the majority of his scientific discoveries. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Kevin Saff/Wikimedia Commons

5.St. Elmo Brady

Scientific discipline: Chemist

Date of birth: 1884

Place of birth: Kentucky, Alabama

Date of death (if relevant): 1966

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Elmo was the first African-American to receive a doctorate in Chemistry in the U.S. 

Elmo would spend a quarter of a century developing the undergraduate program at Fisk University and founded the first graduate Chemistry program at a black college. He also helped build the Chemistry department at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi.

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Brief biography: Elmo Brady was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884. He would leave home at the age of 20 to enroll at the all-black college at Fisk University in Tennessee.

After graduating with a degree in Chemistry he took up a teaching position at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (Tuskegee University today). He would later earn his masters and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois and he also became the first African-American to be admitted into Phi Lambda Upsilon.

He would become a highly regarded educator and would teach at no less than four distinguished black colleges. His 'labor of love' for teaching would inspire countless numbers of future chemists.

St Elmo Brady - scientist
Source: Science History

6.Dr. Betty Wright Harris

Scientific discipline: Chemist

Date of birth: July 1940

Place of birth: Louisiana

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (78 years old at the time of writing)

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Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Dr. Betty Wright is best known for her development and invention of the TATB spot test for identifying explosives in the field. She successfully patented her invention which has been widely adopted by military and civil institutions the world over.

Brief biography: Dr. Betty Wright Harris was one of twelve children born to her parents in rural Louisiana in the 1940's. Her parents would instill in her the need for hard work and the power of education to better oneself.

She would take her parents lessons to heart and later earned her B.Sc. in Chemistry (minor mathematics) from Southern University in 1961. Betty later pursued her Master's in Chemistry from Atlanta University in 1963 and finally completed a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1973 from the University of New Mexico. 

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Post-doctorate, Betty taught chemistry and mathematics for a time at Mississippi Valley State University and Southern University for around 10 years and later joined IBM and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Here she worked as a research chemist in various fields including explosives and nuclear weapons., hazardous waste treatment, and environmental remediation. It was here then she developed her TATB test.

She would later retire from LANL in 2002, join the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Classification and became a member of the American Chemical Society and American Society for the Advancements of Science

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Cpnas

7.Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

Scientific discipline: Theoretical Physicist

Date of birth: August 1946

Place of birth: Washington D.C. 

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (72 years old)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Dr. Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT in Theoretical Physics and the second to earn a doctorate in Physics in general.

Her main contributions to science revolved around advancements in telecommunications that helped lead to the direct development of technologies like the portable fax machine, touch-tone phones and fiber optic cables and many more. 

Brief biography: Shirley was very interested in science and mathematics as a child and would even conduct her own experiments (on honeybees) at a young age. 

She would later use her passion for science to earn a B.Sc., M.Sc., and Ph.D. in Physics. Post academia she began working at AT & T's Bell Laboratories conducting experiments and research into practical applications of theoretical physics. 

She would later head the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commision during the Clinton Administrations and became the 18th President of the  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Dr. Jackson has received many honors and distinctions and serves on the board of directors in many organizations.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: World Economic Forum/Wikimedia Commons

8.Benjamin Banneker

Scientific discipline: Astronomer

Date of birth: November 1731

Place of birth: Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland 

Date of death (if relevant):  October 1806

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Benjamin is best known for his series of highly successful astronomical almanacs that 'predicted' events such as solar eclipses, sunrises, and sunsets.

Many also contained predictions of the weather and seasonal changes and medical remedies and advice on planting crops. 

Brief biography: Born as a freeman he would go on to become one the United States most accomplished intellectuals. Interestingly his heritage included African Royalty.

In time he would self-teach himself many disciplines of STEM including his mastery of mathematics and astronomy.

He would later send a copy of his first almanac to Thomas Jefferson (U.S. Secretary of State) with other documents explaining his position on racial equality. 

Fittingly Benjamin died peacefully whilst stargazing through his telescope in a field near his home on the night of October 25th, 1806. He was 75 years old.

9.Dr. James Edward Maceo West

Scientific discipline: Physics/Electronics/Acoustics

Date of birth: February 1931

Place of birth: Prince Edward County, Virginia

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (87 years old at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: James is best known for his work in developing the electroacoustic transducer electret microphone (ETEM). This device is currently found in around 90% of modern microphones, most telephones, old tape recorders, camcorders, and other devices such as hearing aids and baby monitors.

West has also been a prolific writer contributing to scientific papers and books.

Dr. West was appointed president-elect of the Acoustical Society of America. John later joined the National Academy of Engineering in 1998.

For his contributions to STEM, he was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999.

Brief biography: 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Nanoman657/Wikimedia Commons

10.Dr. Leonidas Harry Berry

Scientific discipline: Physician/Medical Sciences

Date of birth: July 1902

Place of birth: Woodsdale, North Carolina

Date of death (if relevant): 1995

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Dr. Berry is best known for his work biopsy especially his development of a new sampling device called the Elder-Berry biopsy gastroscope that was invented in 1955.

He was also able to determine that alcoholism damaged the liver rather than the stomach (as was the popular belief at the time). 

Brief biography: Leonidas was born as the descendant of a self-liberated African-American who fought the U.S. Civil War for the Union Army. 

He would later earn various bachelor's and master's medical degrees from Wilberforce University, The University of Chicago, Rush Medical College and the University of Illinois Medical School. 

After graduating he would spend a lifetime practicing gastroenterology at Freedman's Hospital in Washington D.C. and Cook County Hospital in Chicago until he retired in 1975. 

He was also heavily involved in the civil rights movement in the 1950's and devised his so-called "Berry Plan" for improving public health at the time. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Adundi/Wikimedia Commons

11.Alice Augusta Ball

Scientific discipline: Pharmacist and Chemist

Date of birth: 1892

Place of birth:  Seattle, Washington 

Date of death (if relevant): December 1916

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Alice is best-known for her successful treatment of those suffering from Hansen's Disease, aka Leprosy. This would prove to be the world's first working treatment for this debilitating disease. 

Tragically she would die very young at the age of 23 and would never receive recognition for her achievements in her lifetime. 

Brief biography: Ball was born as the granddaughter of the, then, famed daguerreotypist James Presley Ball.  Her father was also a promising lawyer. 

Alice Ball graduated from the University of Washington with two degrees in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1912 and a pharmacy in 1914.

Alice would later earn her master's in Chemistry from the University of Hawaii in 1915 and would go on t become the first woman to teach Chemistry when she was 23 years old.

At this time she began experimenting with chaulmoogra oil to treat patients suffering from Hansen disease (leprosy). It would prove effective and worked tirelessly to develop a means of injecting oil. 

According to her obituary, she suffered complications resulting from inhaling chlorine gas during a class demonstration in Honolulu.

 Alice Ball died in Seattle on December 31, 1916, at the age of 24.
 
31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Zil/Wikimedia Commons
 

12.George Edward Alcorn Jr. 

Scientific discipline: Physics

Date of birth: March 1940

Place of birth: Pasadena, California

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (78 years old at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: George is best known for his work on, and the invention of, the X-Ray Spectrometer. This invention was widely adopted by NASA and his invention would earn him the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year award in 1984.

Brief biography: George would earn his B.A. in Physics in 1962 and would complete his master's degree in Nuclear Physics in 1963. 

After Alcorn earned his doctorate in atomic and molecular physics from Howard University in 1967, he spent 12 years in industry as a senior scientist at Philco-Ford, a senior physicist at Parker-Elmer, an advisory engineer at IBM Corporation.

He would later become IBM's Visiting, and then full, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Howard University. In 1978 he joined NASA and invented his famed invention the X-Ray Spectrometer

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA/Goddard/Debora McCallum/Wikimedia Commons

13.Jane C. Wright

Scientific discipline: Biologist and Physician

Date of birth: November 1919

Place of birth: Manhattan, New York

Date of death (if relevant): February 2013

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Jane would spend her career building in the foundational work of her father into chemotherapy. During the late 1940's Jane and her father began to test chemotherapeutic formulations for treating leukemia. and cancer of the lymphatic system. 

Brief biography: Jane studied medicine at Meharry Medical College and Harvard Medical School. After spending some time as a residential doctor at Bellevue and Harlem Hospital she would decide to dedicate herself to medical research.

This decision would dominate her career until she retired in 1985 after which she was appointed Emeritus Professor at New York Medical College in 1987 until the time of her death. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Girona7/Wikimedia Commons

14.Dorothy Vaughan

Scientific discipline: Mathematician and Computer Scientist

Date of birth: September 1910

Place of birth: Morgantown, West Virginia

Date of death (if relevant): November 2008

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Dorothy is best known for her work as a 'Human Computer' at NACA and then NASA. 

She would make ground-breaking advancements in the proliferation of FORTRAN and made significant contributions to the U.S. Space Program. 

Brief biography:  Dorothy graduated from Beechurst High School in 1925. She would later earn her B.A. in Mathematics and then began working as a school teacher to help her family through the great depression.

After getting married and bearing children, Dorothy would simultaneously rear her children and lead a highly successful career with NACA, later NASA. She would be a lifelong advocate for racial and female equality and a committed Methodist Christian.

She would retire at the age of 60 in 1971.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Beverly Golemba/Wikimedia Commons

15.Ronald McNair

Scientific discipline: Physicist

Date of birth: 1950

Place of birth: Lake City, South Carolina

Date of death (if relevant): January 28th, 1986 (Challenger mission disaster)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Tragically Ronald is best-known not for his contributions to science but his tragic death during the Challenger Space Shuttle Explosion in 1986. 

Prior to this, and is time at NASA, he had helped develop experiments in the development of HF/DF and high-pressure CO lasers at MIT.

Brief biography: Ronald was born in 1950 and would late go on to graduate from North Carolina A & T State University in 1971. He later earned his Doctorate in Physics in 1976 from MIT.

Post academia Ronald was selected for the NASA Astronaut Program. After his mandatory training, he clocked up 191 hours in space on the STS 41-B mission that launched in 1984. 

His life was tragically cut short during mission STS 51-1 that exploded mid-launch in January of 1986. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

16.Katherine Johnson

Scientific discipline: Physicist and Mathematician

Date of birth: 1918

Place of birth: White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (aged 100 at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Katherine is best-known as one of NACA/NASA's "Human Computers". Her career was primarily devoted to calculating the trajectories for many NASA missions.

She also published 26 scientific papers throughout her career. 

Brief biography: Katherine was the youngest of four children to her lumberjack father and teacher mother. She would show an interest and aptitude for mathematics at a young age which her parent nurtured into her adulthood.

Katherine would graduate summa cum laude with degrees in Mathematics and French at the age of 18 in 1937. Post graduation she worked for a time as a school teacher before joining NACA at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in 1952. 

She would stay with NACA, that later morphed into NASA, for most of her career until she retired in 1986.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA/Sean Smith/Wikimedia Commons

17.Warren M. Washington

Scientific discipline: Meteorologist/Atmospheric Scientist

Date of birth: 1936

Place of birth: Portland, Oregon

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (82 years of age at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Warren is an accomplished Atmospheric Scientist who has published various papers and books on the subject. These include his better-known works: An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents - His 2006 autobiography

For his contributions to science and education, he has earned various awards.

Brief biography: Warren was born in 1936 to his father, a waiter, and his mother, a practical nurse. Initially advised to study business at a young age he chose to become a scientist instead. This decision would lead him to become one of the most influential atmospheric scientists.

Warren took his bachelors degree in physics and master's degree in Meteorology from Oregon State University. He would late earn his Ph.D. in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University in 1964.

Warren worked as a research assistant post-academia and the later served as adjunct professor at the University of Michigan.  He would later work for the National Center for Atmospheric Research from 1972 onwards. By 1987 he would have worked his way up to the position of Director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division.

Warren served as the President’s National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere between 1978 and 1984 and was elected the President of the American Meteorological Society in 1994.

 

18.Annie Easley

Scientific discipline: Computer Scientist, Mathematician, Rocket Scientist

Date of birth: 1933

Place of birth: Birmingham, Alabama

Date of death (if relevant): 2011

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Annie Easley was a trailblazing computer scientist and rocket scientist who developed a variety of critically important NASA software systems. She is, however, best known for her work on NASA's Centaur Rocket.

Brief biography: Annie initially began her career studying to become a pharmacist at Xavier University. She soon became disillusioned and quit in 1954. 

After getting married she worked as a substitute teacher but soon joined the ranks of 'Human Computers' at NACA. She remained with the organization when NACA morphed into NASA and later earned her B.Sc. in Mathematics from Cleveland University in 1977. 

Annie remained with NACA/NASA for 34 years with her later research focussing on alternative-energy technologies and conservation systems. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Annie Easley. Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

19.Arthur B. C. Walker Jr.

Scientific discipline: Physicist

Date of birth: August 1936

Place of birth: Cleveland, Ohio

Date of death (if relevant): April 2001

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Arthur Walker Junior is best-known for his pioneering work in EUV/XUV optics and solar telescopes. 

These telescopes would be used to produce the first images of the Sun's outer atmosphere during the 1980's. 

Brief biography: Arthur was born as the only child to his lawyer father and Sunday School Teacher mother in 1936. He would later graduate from the Case Western Institute of Technology in 1957 with a bachelors degree in physics.

His acquired his master's in 1958 and Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Illinois. 

He initially began working for the U.S. Air Force but later joined the Aerospace Corporation in 1965. Working with them for 9 years he developed a deep understanding of solar radiation, specifically extreme UV light and soft X-Rays.

Arthur applied his knowledge by collaborating with other scientists to develop the scientific technique of multilayer technology. This would ultimately lead to the development of technology that can be found on two of NASA's major satellites.

Walker was later be appointed by Ronald Regan to serve on the investigating panel for the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Math.Buffalo

20.Neil deGrasse Tyson

Scientific discipline: Astrophysicist

Date of birth: October 1958

Place of birth: New York City

Date of death (if relevant): Still Alive (60 years old at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the best-known Black American scientist alive today. He is a prolific author, science communicator, and educator. 

He is also the Frederick P.  Rose Director for the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, New York City.

He is also a famed TV presenter and, most importantly, a wine enthusiast.

Brief biography: Neil deGrasse Tyson was the second of three children who would spend his early childhood in Castle Hill the Bronx. His interest in Astrophysics was sparked by his first ever visit to the Hayden Planetarium when he was 9 years old. 

Neil would turn his childhood passion into a lifetime career by initially studying Physics at Havard University and then the University of Austin. Neil then completed an MPhil in Astrophysics at Columbia University in 1989. And finally, he earned his Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Columbia in 1991.

He lectured during his MPhil and Ph.D. at Princeton and later joined the Hayden Planetarium in 1994. Neil was quickly promoted to the position of Director of the planetarium in 1995 and formed part of the 12-member commission to study the Future of the US Aerospace Industry for the Bush Administration. 

Neil soon became an accomplished scientist in his own right and published a catalog of research papers and 13 books. 

deGrasse Tyson is best known by many for his high profile media appearances on PBS' "origins" series and the History Channel's "The Universe" not to mention his regular radio series "Star Talk".

Neil has been the recipient of many honorary degrees and awards.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology/Wikimedia Commons

21.Bettye Washington Greene

Scientific discipline: Chemist

Date of birth: March 1935

Place of birth: Fort Worth, Texas

Date of death (if relevant): June 1995

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Bettye is best known for her research and development into the production of latex and other polymers.

She is also credited as being the first African-American female Ph.D. chemist to join the Dow Chemical Company.

Brief biography: Bettye Washington Greene earned her B.Sc. in Chemistry for the Tuskegee Institute in 1955 and then later earned her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Wayne State University in 1962. 

After her doctorate, she would join the Dow Chemical Company's Research Laboratory in Midland, Michigan in 1965. 

Whilst there her work focussed on colloid and latex chemistry as well as their interactions with paper.

She was promoted to Senior Research Chemist in 1970. She would continue working for Dow well into the later 1980's before retiring in 1990.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Science History Institute/Wikimedia Commons

22.Charles Henry Turner

Scientific discipline: Scientist, Research Biologist, Educator, Zoologist and Comparative Psychologist

Date of birth: February 1867

Place of birth: Cincinnati, Ohio

Date of death (if relevant): Valentines Day, 1923

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Charles would publish no less than 49 scientific papers throughout his life. These included some fairly influential pieces such as: Hunting Habits of an American Sand Wasp, Psychological Notes on the Gallery Spider.

His fascination with insects would also lead him to show that insects can hear and distinguish pitch, can learn through trial and error and that honeybees can see in color.

Brief biography: Charles became the first Black American to earn a Bachelors degree from the Univesity of Chicago in 1891. He would later, in 1907, earn a Doctorate from the University of Chicago in Zoology.

After his time at university, he would devote his life to teaching children and entomology. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: William Avery/Wikimedia Commons

23.Lloyd Albert Quarterman 

Scientific discipline: Chemist

Date of birth: May 1918

Place of birth: Philadelphia

Date of death (if relevant): July 1982

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Lloyd is best known as a key scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. Shortly after graduating he became on the few Black American scientists to be recruited by the top-secret project.

He was primarily responsible for the design and implementation of a distillation process for purifying large quantities of hydrogen fluoride. This is needed to separate or enrich Uranium-235 isotopes. 

The U-235 that Quarterman helped accumulate was used to make Little Boy, the uranium bomb that was exploded over Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Brief biography: Born in Philadelphia in 1918, Lloyd would soon develop an interest in Chemistry. Lloyd attended St Augustine's College, Raleigh, North Carolina where he earned his bachelors degree in chemistry in 1943.

After graduating he joined the Manhattan Project and performed critically important purification activities. Post-WW2, Lloyd joined and worked at the newly established  Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois. Here he assisted in the development of the first nuclear reactor for atomic-powered submarines.

24.Joan Murrell Owens 

Scientific discipline: Marine Biologist

Date of birth: June 1933

Place of birth: Miami, Florida

Date of death (if relevant): May 2011

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Joan is best known for her discovery of several new species of the genus Rhombopsammia. She also added a new species to the genus Letepsammia in 1994, naming L. Franki for her husband, Frank A. Owens.

The vast majority of her research was limited to the lab, given her health issues, and was concerned with Smithsonian Institution samples from an 1880 British Expedition. 

Brief biography: Joan was born in Miami, Florida and was the youngest of three children. She soon showed an interest in ocean life and her parents encouraged her ambitions to become a marine biologist. 

Joan suffered her entire life with sickle cell anemia - a condition that would seriously cripple her later career. Despite this, she would become a professor at the Department of Geology and Geography and later the Biology Department at Howard University. 

Joan would earn various degrees from various institutions ranging from Geology with a minor in Zoology from George Washington University in 1970 to an MS in guidance counseling from the University of Michigan, 

25.Margaret S. Collins

Scientific discipline: Zoologist and Entomologist 

Date of birth: September 1922

Place of birth: Institute, West Virginia

Date of death (if relevant): April 1996

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Margeret's research was mainly concerned with termites. Specifically their evolution, tolerance to high temperatures, defensive behaviors, general ecology, taxonomy, and etymology.

She also published several works during her career including: Science and the Question of Human Equality - 1981, Biology of Termites - Water relations in termites chapter  - 1969.

Brief biography:  Margaret Collins was born in September 1922 in Institute, West Virginia. A child prodigy she would earn her B.Sc. in Science and Biology from West Virginia State University in 1943 and her Ph.D. in 1950 from the University of Chicago. 

Her career would be spent teaching at Florida A and M University and Howard University and conducting field research in North and South America. She passed away whilst conducting research in the Cayman Islands in April 1996. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Duckduckstop/Wikimedia Commons

26.Ernest Everett Just 

Scientific discipline:  Microbiologist

Date of birth: August 1883

Place of birth: South Carolina

Date of death (if relevant): October 1941

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Ernest is best known for his pioneering work in developing certain techniques in a number of areas of physiology. These included advancements in fertilization, experimental parthenogenesis, cell division, hydration, diversion, dehydration of cells and UV carcinogenic radiation effects on cells.

Ernest Just was also the editor for no less than three scholarly periodicals and a Julius Rosenwald Fellow in Biology allowing him to work in Europe. Ernest published many papers during his time in Europe included his contributions to the 1924 textbook “General Cytology”.

Brief biography: His father died when Ernest was young leaving his moth in need of finding work to raise him and his sister. She worked as a teacher in an African American school in Charleston and also worked in the local phosphate mines during the summer. 

Much of his youth was also plagued by disease including suffering from typhoid for six weeks. This badly affected his memory requiring him to re-learn how to read and write.

Ernest graduated magna cum laude with an honors degree in zoology from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.  

During his time in Europe, Ernest was actually conducting research in France during the German invasion. He spent some time in POW camp before being rescued and returned to the U.S. in 1940. 

His health had been in steep decline prior to the invasion but his imprisonment worsened his condition. He died in October 1941 of pancreatic cancer. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Miranda/Wikimedia Commons

27.James Andrew Harris 

Scientific discipline: Nuclear Chemist

Date of birth: March 1932

Place of birth: Waco, Texas

Date of death (if relevant): December 2000

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: James Andrew Harris is best known for his contribution to the discovery of Rutherfordium (Element 104) and Dubnium (Element 105). Although an equal claim was made by a Russian team around the same time. 

The dispute was resolved when the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (UPAC) accepted both claims and ruled over the current naming of both elements.

Brief biography: His parents divorced when he was small boy leaving him to be raised by his mother. After graduating from high school he attended Huston-Tillotson College for his undergraduate degree in Chemistry.

After graduating in 1953 he joined the Tracerlab in Richmond, California and later, in 1960, accepted a position at the Lawrence Radiation Lab at the University of California.

After the discovery of elements 104 and 105, Harris and the UOC team continued to search for other super-heavy elements in hope of finding useful applications in medicine and energy production. 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: Lbl.gov

28.Emmett Chappelle

Scientific discipline: Biochemist and Astrochemist

Date of birth: October 1925

Place of birth: Pheonix, Arizona

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (Aged 93 at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Emmett is most famed for his work on life detection on Mars and improvements to environmental management. 

Emmett created more than 35% of peer-reviewed papers scientific or technical publications, nearly fifty conference papers, and co-authored or edited numerous publications in his field.

He also holds 14 patents.

Emmett was honored in the "Top 100 Black American scientists and engineers of the 20th Century" and received the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA.

Brief biography: Emmett grew up on a small farmstead on the edge of Pheonix, Arizona. He would later join the U.S. Army during the Second World War where he received some training in engineering. He was re-assigned to the all-black 91st Infantry Division and deployed to Italy. 

After the war, he earned his B.Sc. in Biology from the University of California in 1950 and his masters' in Biology in 1954 from the University of Washington. Emmett later earned his Ph.D. and joined the Research Institute for Advanced Studies at Baltimore and later NASA in 1966.

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA

29.Patricia S. Cowings

Scientific discipline: Aerospace Psychophysiologist

Date of birth: December 1948

Place of birth:  The Bronx, New York

Date of death (if relevant): Still alive (70 years old at the time of writing)

Their main contribution(s) to science and the world: Patricia S. Cowings has spent her career as the principal investigator on various studies notably the Autogenetic-Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE) – a treatment for space motion sickness.

The technique teaches astronauts to control 20 physiological responses from heart rate to involuntary muscle contractions. Patricia received many awards and honors throughout her career.
 
These included the NASA Individual Achievement Award in 1993 and the National Women of Color Technology Award in 2006, to name but a few.

 

Brief biography:  Patricia was the daughter of a preschool teacher and grocer and was one of four children. She would later study Psychology at the University of New York-Stony Brook and later took her master's and Ph.D. in Psychology from the Universty of California. 

Cowings joined NASA in 1971 and spent the rest of her career there. 

 

31 Highly Influential African American Scientists
Source: NASA
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