February is Black History Month.
We’ve got a lot of coverage lined up over the next few weeks, but thought we would kick things off by profiling people we’ve featured in the past, both on Twitter and on this site.
The image above contains the faces of seventeen notable scientists.
Here’s a bit about them, in the order they appear in the image above.
Booker T. Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) – US educator, presidential advisor, and founder of Tuskegee University.
Notable quote: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
Marguerite Williams (December 24, 1895 – August 17, 1991) In 1942, Dr. Williams became the first African American person to receive a doctorate in geology in the U.S.
During her career, she served as chair of the Geology Department at Miner Teachers College and taught at Howard University.
Saint Elmo Brady (December 22, 1884 – December 25, 1966)
In 1916, Dr. Brady became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the U.S., which he earned at the University of Illinois.During his career, he held leadership positions and helped establish strong graduate/undergraduate programs and fundraising initiatives for four historically black colleges (Howard, Tuskegee, Fisk, and Tougaloo).
Dr. Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950 – January 28, 1986) ) Dr. McNair was a physicist, astronaut, and the second black American citizen to travel to space. He would have turned 69 year old in 2019. Tragically, he died during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 at age 35.
Dr. Joycelyn Elders (August 13, 1933) Pediatrician, health administrator, and the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the U.S.
Notable quote: “We’ve tried ignorance for a thousand years. It’s time we try education.”
Dr. Christine Darden (September 10, 1942) Mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer who spent most of her 40-year career researching supersonic flight and sonic booms. She was the first Black woman to be promoted to the top rank at NASA’s Langley Research Center.
Dr. Guion S. Bluford Jr. (November 22, 1942) U.S. aerospace engineer, retired US Air Force officer/fighter pilot, former NASA astronaut, and the first African American in space.
Notable quote: “I felt an awesome responsibility, and I took the responsibility very seriously, of being a role model and opening another door to black Americans, but the important thing is not that I am black, but that I did a good job as a scientist and an astronaut. There will be black astronauts flying in later missions … and they, too, will be people who excel, not simply who are black . . . who can ably represent their people, their communities, their country.”
Dorothy Vaughan (September 20, 1910 – November 10, 2008) A mathematician and human computer, Vaughan was the first Black woman to supervise a group of staff at NASA predecessor NACA. During her career, she became an expert FORTRAN programmer and contributed to the Scout Launch Vehicle Program.
Dr. Mae Jemison (October 17, 1956) is a U.S. engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut, as well as the first Black woman in space.
Notable quote: “More women should demand to be involved. It’s our right. This is one area where we can get in on the ground floor and possibly help to direct where space exploration will go in the future.”
Dr. Harold Amos (September 17, 1918 – February 26, 2003) Dr. Amos was a U.S. biologist at Harvard Medical School, and the first African American to chair a department at the institution.
Dr. Angie Turner King (December 9, 1905-February 28, 2004) Dr. King was one of the first African-American women to gain degrees in chemistry and mathematics as well as a Ph.D. in math education.
She mentored several young students including Katherine Johnson, one of NASA’s “Hidden Figures.”
Dr. Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr. (November 27, 1923 – May 12, 2011) Dr. Wilkins entered the University of Chicago in 1936 at the age of 13, becoming one of the youngest students to ever attend the school.
In 1942, at the age of 19, Wilkins became the seventh African American to obtain a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the university.
Mary Jackson (April 9, 1921 – February 11, 2005) was a mathematician and aerospace engineer who spent most of her 34-year career at the Langley Research Center.
She began as a human computer and, in 1958, became NASA’s first Black female engineer.
Dr. Marie Maynard Daly (April 16, 1921 – October 28, 2003) was an American biochemist and the first Black American woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, which was awarded by Columbia University in 1947.
Vanessa Nakate (November 15, 1996) is a Ugandan climate justice activist. She began raising awareness about global warming in late 2018 after becoming concerned about unusually high temperatures in her country.
Katherine Johnson (August 26, 1918) is a mathematician whose orbital mechanics calculations helped make the first crewed spaceflights possible.
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (August 5, 1946) Dr. Jackson was the first Black woman to earn a doctorate at MIT, and the second Black woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in physics.
She is the first Black woman to be awarded the U.S. National Medal of Science.
All photos courtesy of Wikipedia, with the exception of Vanessa Nakate’s photo (c/o Twitter).