Black scientists and inventors have made critical contributions to research and society, yet often these contributions are often overlooked in textbooks and other educational materials. Below we celebrate just a few of the many notable Black scholars who have significantly advanced science, technology, and medicine. We encourage fellow academics to strive to tell a more complete and equitable story in the classroom by incorporating all key scholars, including those who worked behind the scenes in science.

Dr. Harold Amos – Microbiologist studying membrane transport at Harvard; first African-American department chair at Harvard Medical school

Alice Ball – Developed the Ball Method, using chaulmoogra oil as a treatment for Hansen’s Disease, or leprosy

Alice Ball

Janet Emerson Bashen – Invented software for EEO compliance and management
Dr. Patricia Era Bath – Pioneered laser cataract surgery, holding 5 patents for surgical apparatuses
Dr. Leonidas Harris Berry – Pioneer in gastroscopy and endoscopy
Otis Boykin – Invented a control unit for the artificial cardiac pacemaker
Dr. Herman Branson – Contributed to the discovery of the alpha helix protein structure
Marie Van Brittan Brown – Invented the home security system

Dr. Alexa Canady – The first Black woman to become a neurosurgeon in the United States. Contributed to the development of the antisiphon shunt used to treat hydrocephalus

Dr. Alexa Canady

Dr. William Warrick Cardozo – Conducted pioneering research on sickle cell anemia
George Washington Carver – Well-known agricultural scientist with numerous accomplishments, including identifying new uses of crops including peanuts and sweet potatoes
Dr. Emmett Chappelle – Pioneered the use of luciferase and luciferin to detect biomolecules
Dr. Gloria Chisum – Invented eyewear to allow pilots to see in extreme conditions

Drs. Mamie Phipps Clark & Kenneth Bancroft Clark – Demonstrated the effect of segregated schools on internalized racism, contributing to the Briggs v. Elliott and Brown v. Board of Education desegregation cases

Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark

David N. Crosthwait Jr. – Created air ventilation systems capable of heating and cooling large buildings, such as Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center
Dr. Marie Maynard Daly – Determined the amino acid composition of histones, which became fundamental to the field of gene expression
Dr. Charles R. Drew – Established new methods for blood storage and developed large-scale blood banks
Dr. Georgia M. Dunston – Founded the National Human Genome Center at Howard University
Dr. Kafui Dzirasa – Created a multi-circuit recording in vivo technique paired with designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDS) to study neural circuits
Annie J. Easley – Developed software for the Centaur rocket stage for NASA
Dr. Sylvester James Gates, Jr. – Theoretical physicist working in supersymmetry, supergravity, and string theory
Dr. Juan Gilbert – Invented software that enhances diversity in University admissions
Sarah E. Goode – Invented the cabinet bed, which was the precursor to the Murphy bed
Bessie Blount Griffin – Invented an electric self-feeding device for amputees

Lloyd Hall – Held 59 patents for food preservation, including methods for curing meat

Lloyd Hall

James Andrew Harris – Co-discovered elements 104 and 105 (rutherfordium and dubnium)
John E. Hodge – Determined the mechanisms in the Maillard reaction pathway
Dr. Yasmin Hurd – Working on the effects of cannabis and heroin on the brain
Mary Jackson – NASA engineer studying thrust and drag
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson – Developed the technology found in touch-tone phones, solar cells, and fiber optic cables

Dr. Erich Jarvis – Howard Hughes Investigator studying the neurobiology of vocal learning in songbirds.

Dr. Erich Jarvis

Katherine Johnson – NASA mathematician for Project Mercury, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle program

Dr. Lonnie Johnson – NASA engineer and inventor of the Super Soaker, which he developed while working on thermal energy transfer engines

Lonnie Johnson

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian – Pioneer in the chemical synthesis of natural products, including physostigmine, which laid the ground work for steroid drugs, and held over 130 patents for his work

Dr. Ernest Everett Just – Biologist and educator well known for his pioneering work in the physiology of development, especially in fertilization. He was the first recipient of the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP in 1915, and one year later he became the first African American to receive his PhD in experimental embryology.

Dr. Ernest Everett Just

Dr. Samuel L. Kountz – Pioneered the kidney transplant and developed the Belzer kidney perfusion machine routinely used for preserving donor kidneys
Jerry Lawson – Designed the Fairchild Channel F video game system with programmable video game cartridges
Dr. Raphael Carl Lee – Discovered the use of surfactant copolymers as molecular chaperones for injury repair in living cells and founded RenaCyte BioMolecular Technologies and Avocet Polymer Technologies

Dr. Farah D. Lubin – Discovered the role of histone methylation in memory consolidation

Dr. Farah Lubin

Dr. Thomas Mensah – Holds 14 patents and contributed to the development of fiber optics and nanotechnology
Dr. Sandra Murray – Social psychologist studying motivated reasoning in close relationships
Alice H. Parker – Invented the furnace for central heating
Dr. Vivian Pinn – Pathologist and leader in the push to include women in federally funded medical studies

Jesse Russell – Pioneer in digital cellular communication, holding over 100 patents, including several for next generation broadband wireless networks (or 4G technology)

Jesse Russell

Dr. Claude Steele – Pioneered research on stereotype threat and its impact on minority student academic performance
Dr. Vivien Thomas – Developed a surgical treatment for blue baby syndrome (or cyanotic heart disease)
Dr. Charles Henry Turner – Discovered insects hear pitch and honeybees see in color
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Director of the Hayden Planetarium, prominent astrophysicist, planetary scientist, and science communicator
Dr. Arthur B.C. Walker Jr. – Created normal incidence multilayer XUV telescopes to photograph the solar corona
Gladys West – Developed the satellite geodesy model, which ultimately was used in the development of the Global Position System (GPS)

James Edward Maceo West – Holds over 250 patents on microphone design and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets

James Edward Maceo West

Dr. J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. – Graduated from the University of Chicago at age 13, becoming their youngest student, then finished his doctorate at 19 before working on the Manhattan Project

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an American general surgeon, who in 1893 performed the first documented, successful pericardium surgery in the United States to repair a wound.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams

Granville Woods – Held over 60 patents, including one for the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, which made public transportation safer
Dr. Jane C. Wright – Pioneered the use of methotrexate as a treatment for breast and skin cancers