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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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Paul Wermager

pharmacist, chemist, researcher, and instructor, was born in Seattle, Washington, one of four children of James P. Ball Jr., an attorney and photographer, and Laura Howard, a photographer and cosmetologist. Alice grew up in a remarkable family. Her grandfather, James Presley “J. P.” Ball Sr., a photographer, was one of the first blacks in the country to master the new art of the daguerreotype. His famous daguerreotype gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, displayed a well-publicized six-hundred-yard panorama of pictures and paintings depicting the horrors of slavery. Later he opened photography galleries in Minneapolis, in Helena, Montana, in Seattle, and in Honolulu. Alice Ball's father, in addition to being a photographer, also was a newspaper editor and lawyer and was credited with having a lasting effect on Montana history. The Balls lived in Montana for several years before moving to Seattle, and Ball's newspaper, the Colored ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

inventor, lived in New Haven, Connecticut, in the early 1890s. Little is known of her early life; it is not known who her parents were or where she was born. She was, however, one of the first African American women to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office in the nineteenth century. On 26 April 1892 Sarah Boone received her patent for an improved ironing board. As a result, Boone became the fourth African American woman to apply for and receive a patent for a new invention and the first person to receive a patent for an ironing board design.

Those who have written about Boone and her improved ironing board note that her invention was a significant improvement over existing devices According to James Brodie before Boone s ironing board this task normally required taking a plank and placing it between two chairs or simply using the ...

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Courtney A. Howard

mathematician, was born Sylvia Trimble in Camp Hill, Alabama, the daughter of Horace Edward Trimble Sr., an insurance agent, and Robbie Jones Trimble. She had four siblings, three brothers and one sister. She attended the segregated public schools in her rural hometown, and was motivated by the standards and values instilled in her by her parents. Early in her education, Bozeman's parents helped her develop confidence that she was capable of accomplishing her goals. Though her father worked with numerical calculations in his career, it was her mother who encouraged Bozeman to pursue her interest in mathematics. Her enthusiasm for the subject grew into advanced mathematical knowledge when her high school mathematics teacher, Frank Holley returned after school to teach trigonometry to a small group of students because the course was not part of the school s curriculum Her excellence in mathematics and other subjects led ...

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Terri L. Norris

academic dean and scientist, was born Carolyn Daphne Branch in Richmond, Virginia, the second of two daughters born to Shirley Marian Booker Branch and Charles Walker Branch, owners of a grocery store. Shirley Branch earlier held a job at an antique store, while Charles Branch's early job was as a truck driver. Shirley later worked for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Carolyn's sister Delores was born in 1942, and both children attended segregated public schools in Richmond, Virginia, where Carolyn graduated from Maggie Walker High School as salutatorian. Branch excelled in academics and was encouraged to pursue a college education. With the aid of her teachers, she sought college scholarships because her supportive parents were unable to afford college tuition. Branch, a first-generation college student, chose Tuskegee University after being offered a choice of six scholarships to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU).

Her freshman ...

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Clare J. Washington

pilot, who made aviation history when she became the first African American woman to fly for a major passenger airline in the United States, the first to be admitted to the U.S. Navy's flight school, and the first in U.S. military history to qualify as a pilot.

Brown was born in Millersville, Maryland. Her family had taken up aviation as a hobby, and she learned to fly small planes with her parents—Gilbert Brown, who was a former U.S. Air Force instrument mechanic and also owned a building construction business, and Elaine Brown, an art resource teacher in the Baltimore public schools—when she was seventeen years old. For her eighteenth birthday, she received a Cherokee 180D airplane. In 1967 Brown flew her first solo flight in a Piper J 3 Cub She had always dreamed of becoming a commercial pilot but her mother advised her otherwise and ...

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Betty Kaplan Gubert

Brown, Willa (22 January 1906–18 July 1992), pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the internal migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory; he was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School Brown was one of only seven black students in the 100 member chorus During her high school years she also did part time domestic work Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that is now part of Indiana University She majored in ...

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Betty Kaplan Gubert

pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory. He was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and of the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School, Brown was one of only seven black students in the hundred-member chorus. During her high school years she also did part-time domestic work. Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that later became part of Indiana University She majored in business minored in French and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha ...

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Alonford James Robinson

Willa Brown was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, to Reverend Eric and Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown. Willa lived briefly in Indianapolis, Indiana, but she spent most of her childhood in Terre Haute, where she graduated from Sarah Scott Junior High School in 1920 and from Wiley High School in 1923.

Brown received her B.S. degree in business from Indiana State Teachers College in 1927. After graduating, she taught public school in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, where she developed an interest in aviation.

In 1935 Brown received a master mechanics certificate from the Aeronautical University in Chicago, and three years later received a private pilot's license by passing her exam with a nearly flawless score of 96 percent. In 1937 she earned an M.B.A. degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and in 1940 she earned a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) ground school instructor's rating.

After ...

Article

Andre D. Vann

educator, author, and one of the first black women in the United States to obtain a PhD degree in Mathematics, was one of two children born to Lawrence Johnson Lee and Mary (Taylor) Lee in Memphis, Tennessee. Before she was two years old her mother died and her father remarried. Her father, a railway postal clerk, and her stepmother, Lottie Lee, a school teacher, instilled in her the value of hard work and gave her a love for mathematics. Lawrence Lee had attended college for approximately two years and was regarded as a talented student of mental arithmetic.

In a 1979 interview Browne remarked I always always always liked mathematics As far back as I can remember I liked mathematics because it was a lonely subject I do have plenty of friends and I talk with them for hours at a time But I also like to be ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

Jewel Plummer Cobb was born in Chicago, Illinois. By her sophomore year in high school, she had begun to work toward her goal of becoming a biologist. She received a bachelor's degree in biology from Talladega College in Alabama in 1944. She then studied cell physiology at New York University, earning a master's degree in 1947 and a Ph.D. in 1950.

Cobb continued her research at several different universities and eventually became involved in university administration. She was president of California State University at Fullerton and dean at Sarah Lawrence College in New York, Connecticut College, and Douglass College in New Jersey. Cobb became trustee professor of the California State University System in 1990. In 2001 she received the Reginald Wilson Award from the American Council on Education Office of Minorities in Higher Education for her career achievements in promoting diversity in higher education Cobb ...

Article

Winifred W. Thompson

Christine Mann Darden is best known for her work as a researcher for NASA, where she was instrumental in conducting research on supersonic aerodynamics and the reduction of the sonic boom in supersonic travel. Darden was a pioneer in the design of supersonic aircraft. She developed several mathematical algorithms as well as devising new wing and nose cone shapes for their aerodynamic and sonic properties. She is in an administrative leadership position, playing a critical role in making decisions at NASA.

Darden was born in Monroe, North Carolina, to Noah Horace Sr., an insurance agent, and Desma Chaney Mann an elementary school teacher She was the youngest of five children At the age of three she went to school with her mother who taught first through fourth grades At the age of four she was enrolled in the first grade After grade school she attended Winchester Avenue ...

Article

Dior Konaté

Senegalese scientist and specialist in artificial intelligence, was born in Dakar, Senegal. She was one of seven children. Combining her passion for sciences and her fascination for knowledge webs, Dieng-Kuntz made significant contributions to computer science research.

Dieng-Kuntz received her elementary education in Dakar and planned to be a writer, yet she became passionate about mathematics after her teachers convinced her to switch to that discipline. Dieng-Kuntz attended Van Vollenhoven High School in Dakar and at the school’s concours général, she took the top places in mathematics, French, and Latin, and second in Greek. In 1972 she passed her scientific baccalaureate with honors and congratulations of the jury. She then earned a scholarship to the Grande École Polytechnique in Paris. Rose Dieng-Kuntz was the first black African woman to be admitted to that prestigious institution. Upon graduation from the École Polytechnique in 1978 with a doctorate in information ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

physician and U.S. surgeon general from 1993 to 1994. Born in rural Arkansas to sharecropper parents, Minnie Lee Jones received a scholarship to attend Philander Smith College in Little Rock at the age of fifteen. While in college she added “Joycelyn” to her name and ultimately used only that. After receiving a degree in biology in 1952, she worked briefly in a Veterans Administration hospital and then in 1953 enlisted in the U.S. Army, where she received training as a physical therapist.

After leaving the army in 1956, Jones attended the University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) and received her MD in 1960. Also in 1960 she married Oliver Elders, with whom she had two sons. In 1967 she earned a master of science degree in biochemistry and also joined the faculty of the UAMS in 1967, becoming a full professor in 1976 ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, educator, college administrator, and mentor to hundreds of black women in science, was born Etta Zuber in Tupelo, Mississippi, the younger of two girls of Walter A. Zuber, a physician, and Zadie L. Montgomery Zuber, a musician. The Zubers were part of a small, black middle class that chose to stay in economically devastated Tupelo during the Depression era. The Zubers' social standing, however, provided little insulation from the closed society that was characteristic of Jim Crow-era Mississippi. Etta attended segregated public schools. She graduated from George Washington High School in 1949 at the age of fifteen and left the security of her home to attend the all black Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee Young Etta had intended to major in chemistry and become a public school teacher But by her sophomore year she had decided that she liked mathematics better ...

Article

Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

professor of physiology, research physiologist, and medical college administrator, was born Eleanor Lutia Ison, the elder of two daughters born in Dublin, Georgia, to Luther Lincoln Ison, a high school teacher, and Rose Mae Oliver Ison, a teacher and accomplished musician. She attended high schools in Tuscumbia, Alabama, and Quitman, Georgia, before moving with her family to Monroe, Georgia, in the 1940s. Franklin graduated from the Carver High School in 1944 as valedictorian of her class.

At the age of fifteen Franklin entered Spelman College, with the intent to become a doctor. However, under the guidance and tutelage of Dr. Helen T. Albro, chair of the Biology Department, and Dr. Barnett F. Smith professor of biology and Wisconsin graduate she chose to pursue postgraduate study in endocrinology and physiology at the University of Wisconsin Franklin who had played piano and oboe in ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, college professor, and public school reformer, was born Evelyn Boyd, the second of two girls of William Boyd, a blue-collar worker who held various jobs as a custodian, chauffeur, and messenger, and Julia Walker Boyd, a civil servant who worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing during the Depression. Granville received her early education in the pre–Brown v. Board of Education era of separate but equal public schools for blacks and whites Despite the dual system Boyd would later insist that she received a quality education in elementary and middle school and later at Dunbar High School one of three public high schools in the Washington D C area designated for black students Dunbar had a reputation for high academic standards and for emphasizing the importance of racial pride and personal excellence Recalling that period Granville writes My generation benefited ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar, historian, physicist, engineer, and advocate for minorities and women in science, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of two girls of William Emmett Hammonds, a postal worker, and Evelyn Marie Hammonds, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher. At age nine, Hammonds's father gave his daughter a chemistry set. For Hammonds, the chemistry set, along with later gifts of a microscope, and building sets, sparked an interest in science that would be encouraged by both parents. The events also set her on a path that would force her to think more critically about her own identity and the struggles and contributions of blacks and women in science.

Growing up in Atlanta, Hammonds attended all-black public elementary schools. This would change in 1967 when as a fourteen year old ninth grade student she was bused to a predominately white school ...

Article

Hypatia  

Michael A. B. Deakin

Alexandrian astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, was the first woman mathematician of whose life and work we have reasonably detailed and secure knowledge. She was active as a public figure, taking a leading part in the civic affairs of Alexandria and also delivering popular lectures on philosophy: a Neoplatonist philosophy heavily influenced by mathematics. She also taught students the intricacies of technical mathematics and astronomy. Her public profile alone was probably distinguished enough to earn her a place in history, but this has been cemented by the lurid nature of her death. She died in 415, murdered by a crowd of Christian zealots who seized her, stripped her, and proceeded to dismember her and to burn her mangled corpse. Undoubtedly this further circumstance has served to keep her name alive.

Hypatia was the daughter of the mathematician Theon and taught both mathematics and philosophy in the then Greek city of Alexandria ...

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Sowande' Mustakeem

At the young age of twenty-six, Shirley Ann Jackson became not only the first African American woman to receive a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but also one of the first two women to receive a degree in theoretical physics from any university in the United States. In 1995, Jackson became both the first African American and first woman appointed to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear power plants in the United States. Additionally, in 1999, Jackson became the first African American president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, the oldest university in the United States dedicated to research in science and engineering.

The second daughter of George and Beatrice Jackson, Jackson was born in Washington, DC She benefited greatly from the strong foundation her parents provided Her mother Beatrice a social worker regularly read to her often choosing the ...