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Science Spotlight

Elijah McCoy (1844-1929)

As one of the most famous American inventors in history, McCoy truly revolutionized industries and paved the way for many other notable African American innovators. He became widely known for his 57 patents, the most famous of which involves an automatic lubricator that changed the way steam engines were oiled during his time. 
Source:  Cultura Colectiva by Oliver G. Alvar, 2019

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

The educator and agricultural researcher was the head of the agricultural department at Booker T. Washington’s all-black Tuskegee Institute after he earned his master’s degree in agriculture. Carver initiated advanced educational programs for farmers, which included replacement of cotton crops with such alternatives as peanuts and sweet potatoes. 
Source: MSN

Charles Henry Turner (1867-1923)

Scientist, research biologist, educator, zoologist, and comparative psychologist, Turner earned a doctorate from the University of Chicago. He published dozens of scientific papers. He was the first person to prove that insects can hear and distinguish pitch. He made other discoveries about insects and bees.
Source: Interesting Engineering by Christopher McFadden, 2018 

Alice Augusta Ball (1892-1916)

Ball 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. 
Source: Interesting Engineering by Christopher McFadden, 2018

Charles Drew (1904-1950)

As a researcher and surgeon, Dr. Charles Drew revolutionized the understanding of plasma, the liquid portion of blood without cells. Plasma lasts much longer than whole blood, making it possible to be “banked” for long periods of time. After becoming the first African American to get his medical doctorate from Columbia University in 1940, Drew was a leading authority on blood transfusions and storage. 

Katherine Johnson (1918 - )

Katherine Johnson is a physicist and mathematician who helped launch the first use of digital electronic computers at NASA, the independent federal government agency that handles aerospace research, aeronautics, and the civilian space program. Her wisdom with numbers and accuracy was so highly regarded that her sign-off was paramount for NASA to modernize itself with digital computers. In 2015, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 
Source: The Undefeated 44

Otis Boykin (1920-1982)

After his mother died from a heart attack, Otis Boykin set out to invent the modern pacemaker. More specifically, he created a control unit which uses electrical impulses in order to maintain a normal heartbeat, which is the core function of any pacemaker today. As a professional engineer, Boykin patented over 25 electronic devices, including wired and variable resistors used in guided missiles.
Source: Cultura Colectiva  by Oliver G. Alvar, 2019

Mary Jackson (1921-2005)

A gifted mathematician and aerospace engineer, Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958. Serving as the Affirmative Action Program Manager and as the Federal Women’s Program Manager in the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, Jackson spearheaded the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, engineering, and mathematics division.  
Source: MSN  

Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. (1923-2011)

Nuclear scientist, mechanical engineer, and mathematician, Wilkins is the youngest student ever to attend the University of Chicago, at the age of 13. Widely recognized as a genius and child prodigy, Wilkins contributed to the Manhattan Project in World War II, published over 100 academic papers, and made significant contributions in the fields of differential geometry, linear differential equations, integrals, nuclear engineering, gamma radiation shielding, and optics.  
Source: Cultura Colectiva  by Oliver G. Alvar, 2019.

Patricia Era Bath (1924-2019)

Best known as an ophthalmologist who invented the Laserphaco probe for cataract treatment, Bath was the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. She was also the first African American to ever complete a residency in ophthalmology. Bath also became the first female faculty member at the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA's Jules Stein Eye Institute. She established the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976.
Source: Biography 

Valerie Thomas (1943-   )

This chemist, physicist, and computer scientist is best known as the inventor of the Illusion Transmitter, which has proved highly influential for NASA research. Thomas also helped develop the image-processing systems for LANDSAT (the first satellite to send images from space). The Illusion Transmitter would be widely adopted by NASA and is still used in the production of televisions and video screens.  
Source: Interesting Engineering by Christopher McFadden, 2018 

Shirley Ann Jackson (1946 - )

Dr. Shirley Jackson is a physicist and the first African American woman ever to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the second to earn a doctorate in physics. In 2016, she received the National Medal of Science. Her research and inventions paved the way for several modern developments in telecommunications, such as the touch-tone phone, call waiting, portable faxes, caller ID, and the fiber-optic cable. She has held numerous government appointments and is the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.   
Source: Cultura Colectiva  by Oliver G. Alvar, 2019.

Patricia S. Cowings (1948- )

Cowings is an aerospace psychophysiologist  who 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.
Source: Interesting Engineering by Christopher McFadden, 2018

Ronald McNair (1950-1986)

McNair earned his doctorate in physics in 1976 from MIT. Post-academia, he 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, becoming the second African American to fly in space. His life was tragically cut short during mission STS 51-1, when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded mid-launch in January 1986.
Source: Interesting Engineering by Christopher McFadden, 2018

Elijah McCoy photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr. photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Dan Dry | Shirley Ann Jackson photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.