7 Brilliant Black Scientists to Celebrate ...


While we women and minorities are making great strides in Maths, Sciences and Technologies, it's always helpful to have a few role models in mind, famous black scientists who set an example of what's possible when we pay more attention to talent and passion than race or sex. A glance at most textbooks over the years will demonstrate that we've still got some ways to go, but look how far we've come! Here are a few of the famous black scientists who've made great advances in their fields, and along the way, inspired generations of young minds.

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Ernest Everett Just (biologist – 1883-1941)

Ernest Everett Just (biologist – 1883-1941) Ernest Everett Just is a famous black scientist most well known for his contributions to the field of biology. Born in Charleston, SC in 1883, Ernest’s passion for biology began while he was at Dartmouth College, when he read a paper on egg fertilization and embryo development. It was in this field that Ernest demonstrated his pioneering originality. He was the editor of three periodicals and he won the NAACP’s first Spingarn Medal for Outstanding Achievement by a Black American.


Just's groundbreaking work emphasized the importance of the cell surface in the development of marine organisms' eggs, challenging prevailing scientific doctrines of his time with his holistic approach. Due to racial discrimination, his contributions were often overlooked, despite his collaborations with renowned scientists and institutions. Nevertheless, Ernest Everett Just remained a diligent researcher, and his theories and methodologies laid the groundwork for the modern understanding of cell biology. His determination and skill forged a legacy that continues to inspire scientists across generations and disciplines.


Mae C. Jemison (astronaut – 1956-)

Mae C. Jemison (astronaut – 1956-) Mae C. Jemison was the first black women to become an astronaut and to fly into space (in 1992). She was a highly talented child and she spent much of her younger years studying science and astronomy. She graduated in chemical engineering at the prestigious Stanford University before becoming a physician at Cornell. Before she entered the astronaut training program she worked as a general practitioner and was heavily involved in humanitarian and peacekeeping work. Recognized with lots of honors and awards, Mae is an all-around American hero!


Percy Julian (chemist – 1899-1975)

Percy Julian (chemist – 1899-1975) Throughout his life Percy Julian faced a great deal of racial prejudice, though like many famous black scientists he rose above the adversity, making many important contributions to biomedicine. He obtained Phi Beta Kappa honors at his high school, and he earned a Harvard scholarship to complete his Master’s (though the university would not allow him to pursue his PhD). He gained much acclaim when he invented a way to treat glaucoma, and while working in the industry he worked extensively in chemistry and biomedicine.


George Carruthers (physicist – 1939-)

George Carruthers (physicist – 1939-) From a very early age it was clear that George Carruthers was a special talent with a clear interest in optics and astronomy. After he earned his PhD from the University of Illinois in 1964 he went on to work at the US Naval Research Laboratory. George invented a number of new astronomical instruments. With his creation of a telescope and image converter which gave the first proof of the existence of molecular hydrogen in space, he is truly one of the top famous black scientists.


George Washington Carver (botanist, Inventor, Chemist – 1864-1943)

George Washington Carver (botanist, Inventor, Chemist – 1864-1943) Born as a slave around 1864 in Diamond, Missouri, George Washington Carver ‘The Plant Doctor’ became one of the most famous black scientists and inventors of his day. He had a turbulent youth that was shaped by the closing years of the US Civil War. He went to Iowa State Agricultural College, before starting a career of teaching and research at the African-American Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural department. George’s work at this institute was groundbreaking and led to many new agricultural methods and technologies.


Guion S. Bluford (astronaut – 1942-)

Guion S. Bluford (astronaut – 1942-) Guion Bluford was the first African American to reach space in 1983. Joining NASA in 1979, he was a mission specialist onboard Challenger, and after this first run he took part in three other space missions in the early '90s. Before his time as an astronaut Guion was a pilot in the US Air Force. In the Vietnam War he flew 144 missions. He earned a Master’s and a PhD in aerospace engineering between 1974 and 1978.


Charles Drew (surgeon – 1904-1950)

Charles Drew (surgeon – 1904-1950) Charles Drew’s research into blood plasma storage was highly important for the US and the UK in the Second World War. He directed blood plasma programs during this time, but resigned following a ruling that African-American blood would be separated from Caucasian blood. He went to Amherst, taught at Morgan State and was a top student at McGill University.

Do these famous black scientists inspire you to achieve your career dreams?

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Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

Very informative. Would also be nice to hear about more scientists making strides right now

Great. Thanks. I did not know about most of these people

That's awesome but what about neil degrasse tyson?!

I love to read and find out new stuff because I didn't know any of this thanks for the article..

The photo of Mae Jemison is incorrect

Very insightful I did not even know this

Wow! These are very inspiring!

It's really sad that I haven't heard of any of these brilliant scientists. Good informative article

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