African American Inventors

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Black Inventors

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Notable African Americans in Science

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAME

LIFE DATES

RESEARCH AREA

NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS

 

 

 

 

Alexander, Lloyd E.

1902-

Cell biology (embryology)

Kentucky State College holds Lloyd E. Alexander Day, featuring student biology presentations, every year in his honor.

 

 

 

 

Berry, Leonidas

1902-

Gastrointestinal systems

Elected president of the National Medical Association in 1965; founder of the Flying Black Medics, Cairo, Illinois, who created clinics for black people otherwise denied care.

 

 

 

 

Blackwell, David Harold

1919-

Mathematics

Noted for his work on game theory; became first African American member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1965; received Von Neumann Theory Prize in 1979.

 

 

 

 

Bramwell, Fitzgerald B.

1945-

Chemistry

Leader of CHEMCOM, national program for high school chemistry students.

 

 

 

 

Branson, Herman R.

1914-1995

Biophysics

Discovered spiral hemoglobin pattern that helped reveal the secret of DNA's structure.

 

 

 

 

Bromery, Randolph W.

1926-

Geology

Helped found the Weston Geophysical International Corporation in 1981 and the Geoscience Engineering Corporation in 1983.

 

 

 

 

Brooks, Carolyn Branch

1946-

Microbiology

Recognized by President Bill Clinton in 1998 at the first annual White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

 

 

 

 

Campbell, George, Jr.

1945-

Physics

Performed his wartime government service in Kabwe, Zambia, as a math teacher in 1968; leader
in National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME).

 

 

 

 

Carruthers, George R.

1939-

Astrophysics

Awarded the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1972 for building a camera that could measure ultraviolet light.

 

 

 

 

Carson, Benjamin S., Sr.

1951-

Physiology

Successfully separated two Siamese twins who shared a single blood supply to their brains in 1987.

 

 

 

 

Carver, George Washington

1864-1943

Biochemistry, plant physiology

Recipient of Spingarn Medal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1923; appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1935; awarded Franklin Roosevelt Medal for distinguished research in agricultural chemistry in 1937; named International Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians Man of the Year in 1940; posthumously funded the George Washington Carver Research Foundation.

 

 

 

 

Chappelle, Emmett W.

1925-

Biochemistry

Holder of 13 patents for his inventions.

 

 

 

 

Cobb, Jewel Plummer

1924-

Cell biology

Prominent researcher on skin cancer; outspoken activist in recruitment of women and minorities in
the sciences.

 

 

 

 

Craft, Thomas J., Sr.

1924-

Developmental biology, education

Adviser to the National Institutes of Health; interest
in the training of science teachers at all levels led
him to train college science teachers in India in 1967 and 1968.

 

 

 

 

Daly, Marie Maynard

1921-

Biochemistry

First black woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry in 1947; fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; pioneer on the effects of cigarette smoke on the lungs.

 

 

 

 

Darden, Christine Mann

1942-

Mechanical engineering

Reproduced the effects of a sonic boom in a computer program for NASA in 1967.

 

 

 

 

Davis, Leodis

1933-

Biochemistry

Medical Faculty Award from Lederle Pharmacutical Company for work on liver enzyme and B6 vitamin.

 

 

 

 

Dorman, Linneaus C.

1935-

Organic chemistry

Researched ways to reduce environmental damage done by agricultural chemicals.

 

 

 

 

Drew, Charles R.

1904-1950

Physiology

Became director of the first American Red Cross Blood Bank in 1941 but disagreed with their policy of separating blood by race; awarded Spingarn Medal by the NAACP in 1944 for training African American doctors; appointed by surgeon general to task force in Europe in 1949 to improve postwar medical care.

 

 

 

 

Drew, James B.

1922-

Physiology

Obtained master's degree in 1954 from Rutgers University in New Jersey, the first African American to obtain an advanced degree from Rutgers.

 

 

 

 

Dunbar, Joseph C.

1944-

Physiology

Won Minority Achievement Award in 1989 for his research on the transplanted pancreas.

 

 

 

 

Elliot, Irving Wesley, Jr.

1925-

Organic chemistry

Participated in 1955 Tallahassee bus boycott; discovered a now-patented chemical in 1988 that is being tested against acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

 

 

 

 

Eure, Herman

1947-

Parasitology

Adviser about racial bias to developers of
aptitude tests.

 

 

 

 

Evans, Slayton, Jr.

1943-

Organic chemistry

Researched a medicine that controls schistosomiasis, a parasite-borne disease that is common in Southeast Asia.

 

 

 

 

Ferguson, Angela D.

1925-

Physiology

Pioneer of health work with African American children, particularly sickle-cell anemia cases.

 

 

 

 

Ferguson, Lloyd Noel

1918-

Biochemistry

Won Guggenheim fellowship to study fermentation in Denmark in 1953; in 1958 made head of department of chemistry at Howard University, the first chemistry program at a black college; founder of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers, providing mentoring for young African American chemists.

 

 

 

 

Florant, Gregory L.

1951-

Animal physiology

Fulbright Scholar in Graves, France, in 1983, studying the effects of insulin on hibernating animals; fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1989.

 

 

 

 

Francisco, Joseph S.

1955-

Chemistry

Recipient of Presidential Young Investigator Award and a research fellowship from Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in 1990 for his work on the effects of chlorine on the ozone.

 

 

 

 

Franklin, Renty B.

1945-

Physiology

Received Howard Hughes-Morehouse Distinguished Scientists Award in 1994.

 

 

 

 

Fraser-Reed, Bertram

1934-

Organic chemistry

Received the Merck, Sharpe & Dohme Award for outstanding contributions to chemistry in 1977.

 

 

 

 

Fuller, A. Oveta

1955-

Microbiology

Work on herpes funded by such agencies as the Anna Fuller Cancer Fund, the U.S. Public Health Service, and the National Institutes of Health.

 

 

 

 

Gillyard, Cornelia Denson

1941-

Organic chemistry

Worked with NASA on programs to encourage African American women in the sciences.

 

 

 

 

Gipson, Mack, Jr.

1931-

Geology

Founded first geological sciences program in
1964 at a historically black university, Virginia
State University
.

 

 

 

 

Gourdine, Meredith C.

1929-1998

Engineering physics

Founded Gourdine Systems in 1964 and Energy Innovations in 1974; invented many devices based on the concept of the fuel cell and held over 70 U.S. and foreign patents.

 

 

 

 

Granville, Evelyn Boyd

1924-

Mathematics

Became one of the first two black women to earn a doctorate in mathematics in 1949; designed computer programs for NASA's Apollo project.

 

 

 

 

Gwaltney, John L.

1928-

Anthropology

Author of The Dissenters (1986), oral history
that was nominated for the Robert F. Kennedy
Book Award.

 

 

 

 

Hall, Lloyd Augustus

1894-1971

Chemistry

Discovered new ways to cure meats, preserve foods with germ-free spices, and prevent fats from spoiling.

 

 

 

 

Harris, Don Navarro

1929-

Biochemistry

Holder or coholder of five patents on
curative compounds.

 

 

 

 

Harris, Mary Styles

1949-

Genetics

Worked throughout her career with the media to
point out the links between science and medicine and to promote awareness of the health issues of African Americans.

 

 

 

 

Harris, Wesley L.

1941-

Aeronautical engineering

Researched gas dynamics and aeronautical acoustics; fellow of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1992.

 

 

 

 

Harrison, Faye Venetia

1951-

Anthropology

Author of Decolonizing Anthropology (1991); researched women's issues in Jamaica.

 

 

 

 

Harrison, Robert W., III

1941-

Endocrinology

Researched diseases of the adrenal gland.

 

 

 

 

Hawkins, Walter Lincoln

1911-1992

Organic chemistry

First African American to join the Bell Labs staff in 1942; first chairperson of SEED, an American Chemical Society program encouraging minority participation in the sciences in 1981; first black member of the National Academy of Engineering; presented with the National Technology Award in 1992 by President George Bush.

 

 

 

 

Haynes, John K.

1943-

Cell biology

Researched the relationship between calcium and sickle cells.

 

 

 

 

Henderson, James H. M.

1917-

Plant physiology

Lifelong study of sweet potatoes, active in the Civil Rights Movement.

 

 

 

 

Henry, Warren E.

1909-

Physical chemistry

Researched superconductivity and magnetism.

 

 

 

 

Hill, Walter A.

1946-

Plant physiology

Developed a method for growing sweet potatoes in water for NASA.

 

 

 

 

Hinton, William Augustus

1883-1959

Microbiology

Created the widely used Hinton test for syphillis.

 

 

 

 

Hrabowski, Freeman A., III

1950-

Mathematics

Created the Meyerhoff Scholarship program with Robert and Jane Meyerhoff in 1988.

 

 

 

 

Jackson, Shirley Ann

1946-

Theoretical physics

Appointed head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by President Clinton in 1995.

 

 

 

 

Jackson, William M.

1936-

Physical chemistry

Director of a million-dollar government grant used to increase minority participation in the sciences.

 

 

 

 

Jearld, Ambrose, Jr.

1944-

Marine biology

Regional coordinator of all New England fisheries.

 

 

 

 

Jemison, Mae C.

1956-

Physiology

Became the first African American woman in space in 1992 on the space shuttle Endeavour.

 

 

 

 

Jones, Frederick M.

1893-1961

Mechanical engineering

Founded U.S. Thermo Control Company in 1935 after inventing an air-conditioned truck for the transportation of food; held 61 patents.

 

 

 

 

Julian, Percy Lavon

1899-1975

Organic chemistry

Pioneered the synthesis of cortisone; elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1960; received 19 honorary degrees.

 

 

 

 

Just, Ernest Everett

1883-1941

Marine biology

Awarded the first NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1915 for his work in biology.

 

 

 

 

King, James, Jr.

1933-

Physical chemistry

Researched pollution reduction; named
Technologist of the Year in 1993 by National Technical Association.

 

 

 

 

Kittrell, Flemmie P.

1904-1980

Nutrition

Created graduate nutrition programs at
Howard University; researched nutrition
across Asia and Africa.

 

 

 

 

Kornegay, Wade M.

1934-

Engineering physics

Named scientist of the year in 1990 by Society of Black Engineers.

 

 

 

 

Kountz, Samuel Lee

1930-1981

Physiology

With Roy Cohen, performed first mother-to-child kidney transplant in 1961.

 

 

 

 

Langford, George M.

1944-

Cell biology

In 1992 research team discovered a new
transport system in cells that could be fundamental
in learning to control the spread of cellular diseases such as cancer.

 

 

 

 

Lawrence, Margaret Morgan

1914-

Psychiatry

Pioneer in the study of the emotional and developmental effects of poverty on children.

 

 

 

 

Leevy, Caroll M.

1920-

Physiology

Specialized in the study of liver disease; became the scientific director of the Sammy Davis Jr. National Liver Institute in 1984.

 

 

 

 

Lester, William A., Jr.

1937-

Theoretical chemistry

Researched high-velocity molecular collisions; won Percy L. Julian Award for Pure and Applied Research in 1979.

 

 

 

 

Lewis, H. Ralph

1931-

Theoretical physics

Researched a thermonuclear fusion reactor that would not produce radioactive waste.

 

 

 

 

Macklin, John W.

1939-

Physical chemistry

Developed, with his associates, a microscopic light meter to study the origins of one-celled creatures.

 

 

 

 

Massey, Walter E.

1938-

Theoretical physics

In 1990 became second black person to direct the National Science Foundation.

 

 

 

 

Massie, Samuel Proctor

1919-

Organic chemistry

Became first black department chair at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1977; in 1993 became first civilian and second African American to become an honorary member of the National Naval Officers Association.

 

 

 

 

McBay, Henry C.

1914-1995

Organic chemistry

Asked by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1951 to design a chemistry program in Liberia.

 

 

 

 

McNair, Ronald Erwin

1950-1986

Engineering physics

In 1984 orbited Earth 27 times in 8 days in the space shuttle Challenger, sampling gases and testing solar cells; died in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

 

 

 

 

Mickens, Ronald Elbert

1943-

Physics

Author of books on pure mathematics and biographies of African American women in
the sciences.

 

 

 

 

Mitchell, Earl D.

1938-

Biochemistry

Studied the digestive functions of plants and animals.

 

 

 

 

Mitchell, James W.

1943-

Analytical chemistry

Percy L. Julian Award recipient in 1981; IR-100 awards for industrial research in 1982 and 1989; inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1989.

 

 

 

 

Morrison, Harry L.

1932-

Theoretical physics

Helped found Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Achievement (MESA), a program
dedicated to preparing minority students for
college science courses.

 

 

 

 

Murray, Sandra

1947-

Cell biology

Studied DNA and RNA and their effects on
glandular cancer.

 

 

 

 

Nelson, Ivory V.

1934-

Analytical chemistry

Helped found the chemistry department at the Universidad de Guadalajara in Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Owens, Joan Murrell

1933-

Marine biology

Became first African American woman to earn a doctorate in geology in 1984.

 

 

 

 

Poindexter, Hildrus A.

1901-1987

Bacteriology

Traveled in Asia, North Africa, and the United States, studying tropical medicine and working for the U.S. Public Health Service.

 

 

 

 

Reed, Kennedy J.

1944-

Theoretical physics

Helped found the National Physical Science Consortium, which provides college fellowships to minority and female students.

 

 

 

 

Rouse, Carl A.

1926-

Astrophysics

Holds a patent for improved shields in nuclear
power plants.

 

 

 

 

Scott, Juanita Simons

1936-

Developmental biology

Studied the effects of water pollution; assisted teachers of elementary- and middle-school students in teaching science.

 

 

 

 

Slaughter, John B.

1934-

Engineering physics

Became first black director of the National Science Foundation in 1980; named chancellor of the University of Maryland at College Park in 1982.

 

 

 

 

Stephens, Clarence F.

1917-

Mathematics

Ford Foundation Fellow at Princeton University during Albert Einstein's tenure there.

 

 

 

 

Stokes, Gerald V.

1943-

Microbiology

Researched vaccine to prevent chlamydia; the only African American to have taught basic graduate science at George Washington University.

 

 

 

 

Sullivan, Louis Wade

1933-

Physiology

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services under President George Bush.

 

 

 

 

Taylor, Welton I.

1919-

Microbiology

In 1965 invented a procedure for detecting the bacteria that cause food poisoning, which became the standard required procedure for all foods by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

 

 

 

 

Thompson, Emmanuel B.

1928-

Pharmacology

Researched drugs to control high blood pressure and sickle-cell anemia.

 

 

 

 

Tildon, J. Tyson

1931-

Biochemistry

Major authority on sudden infant death syndrome.

 

 

 

 

Tolbert, Margaret E. M.

1943-

Biochemistry

Served as the program director for the National Science Foundation's Research Improvement in Minority Institutions Program.

 

 

 

 

Turner, Charles Henry

1867-1923

Developmental biology

First scientist to notice ant circling pattern still known as "Turner Circling"; did all of his significant work with no government grants or outside funding, while he taught at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

 

 

 

von Winbush, Samuel

1931-

Inorganic chemistry

Designed, with Victor Maroni, a metal extraction project that was named one of the 100 best inventions of 1986.

 

 

 

 

Washington, Warren M.

1936-

Meteorology, physics

Authority on global warming; became first black president of the American Meteorological Society in 1994; cofounded Black Environmental Science Trust (BEST), helping black scientists mentor black students of science.

 

 

 

 

Wiley, William R.

1932-

Microbiology, Biochemistry

Worked as a graduate student under Nobel Prize-winner Salvador Luria.

 

 

 

 

Wilkins, J. Ernest, Jr.

1923-

Theoretical physics

Received doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1942 at the age of 19; physicist on Manhattan Project during World War II; elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1976.

 

 

 

 

Williams, Theodore R., Jr.

1930-

Analytical chemistry

Helped pioneer a summer science camp for 7th-grade girls.

 

 

 

 

Williams, Willie, Jr.

1947-

Physics

Researched the use of light beams to transfer information in space.

 

 

 

 

Woods, Geraldine Pittman

1921-

Cell biology (embryology)

Helped found Head Start in 1965.

 

 

 

 

Wright, Jane C.

1919-

Chemistry, physiology

Became director of the Cancer Research Foundation in 1952; in 1967 appointed full professor of surgery and associate dean at New York Medical College, making her the most senior African American woman at a medical school.

 

 

 

 

Wyche, James Howard

1942-

Cell biology

Researched single-cell biology; head of
many minority outreach efforts among the
Ivy League universities.

 

 

 

 

Source: James H. Kessler, J. S. Kidd, Renee A. Kidd, Katherine A. Morin, Distinguished African American Scientists of the 20th Century, 1996.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[1]"African American Scientists," Microsoft® Encarta® Africana 2000. © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.