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Article

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 ...

Primary Source

Samuel R. Scottron was born in Philadelphia or New England in 1841, grew up in New York and Brooklyn, and worked in his father's sutler business in the South during the Civil War. While in Florida, he assisted in the first election (1864) in which freedmen were allowed to vote. He moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, shortly after the Civil War.

Scottron opened a barber shop where he noticed the patrons had trouble using handheld mirrors to check their hair. He invented and patented an adjustable mirror system that allowed all sides of the head to be seen at once. The manufactured mirrors were a market success, which afforded Scottron the opportunity to pursue interests in manufacturing, especially with wood and porcelain, as well as molded materials for decorative purposes on framing, supports, and mantels.

Scottron licensed the mirror patent and used the royalty money to finance his next business cornice ...

Article

Pamela Blackmon

physicist, inventor, and educator, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the eldest of two sons of Arletta (Dixon) Alcorn and George Alcorn, an auto mechanic. Little is known of his early life. George Alcorn Jr. earned a BA in Physics in 1962 from Occidental College in Pasadena, California, where he excelled both academically and athletically, earning eight letters in football and baseball. His educational pursuits took him next to Howard University, where he received a master's degree in Nuclear Physics after only nine months of study. During the summers of 1962 and 1963 Alcorn worked as a research engineer at the space division of North American Rockwell, where he computed trajectories and orbital mechanics for missiles, including the Titan I and II, the Saturn IV, and the Nova.

From 1965 to 1967 Alcorn researched negative ion formation with funded support from the National Aeronautics and Space ...

Article

Charles E. Wynes

engineer, was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of Price Alexander, a janitor and coachman, and Mary Hamilton. The Alexanders were members of a tiny African American minority both in the town of Archie's birth and in Des Moines, Iowa, where they moved when he was eleven years old. In Ottumwa the Alexanders lived in the section of town inhabited by the poor, both black and white. In Des Moines they lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Since Iowa's public schools were not segregated, Alexander attended school with whites, and he graduated from Des Moines's Oak Park High School in 1905 Then uncommon for the son of a janitor whether black or white he went on to further study By working hard at part time jobs and with some help from his parents Alexander attended Highland Park College and the Cummins Art ...

Article

Ginny Crosthwait

professor and educationaladministrator, was born Rosie Elizabeth Allen in Americus, Georgia, to Ulysses Grant Allen and Velma Douglas Allen. After completing a BS in Biology at Albany State College in Georgia, Allen-Noble taught in three Georgia high schools: the Vienna High and Industrial School (1960–1961), West Point High School (1962–1963), and Carver High School in Columbus (1963–1964). She also served as chairperson of the biology department at Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia, from 1965 to 1970. Allen-Noble and Daniel Bernard Noble married in April 1964 and divorced in April 1968. They have one child, Antoinette Celine Noble-Webb.

While working on a master's degree in zoology at Atlanta University, Allen-Noble taught courses in biology, anatomy, and physiology at Spelman College, also in Atlanta (1965–1966). She completed the MS in 1967. From 1970 to 1976 she ...

Article

Thomas O. Fox and Jocelyn Spragg

scientist and educator, was born in Pennsauken, New Jersey, the second of nine children, to Howard R. Amos Sr., a Philadelphia postman, and Iola Johnson, who had been adopted by and worked for a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who schooled her with their own children at home. This family remained lifelong friends of Iola and kept the young Amos family well supplied with books, including a biography of Louis Pasteur, which piqued Harold's interest in science in the fourth grade. Both Howard and Iola expected their children to be serious about their education and to excel academically. Harold, along with his siblings, took piano lessons and remained a competent amateur pianist. He also gained a reputation as an excellent tennis player.

Harold received his early education in a segregated school in Pennsauken then graduated first in his class from Camden High School in New Jersey He ...

Article

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

physical organic chemist and pioneer F-19 synthetic organic chemist, was born in Altheimer, Arkansas, one of six children of parents who were sharecroppers. Her father, Charlie Long, had a third-grade education and her mother, Elsie Lee Foggie Long, a tenth-grade education. Gloria entered school at age four already able to read. She attended the segregated schools in Arkansas, which had all-black faculty who encouraged the students to succeed.

Anderson graduated from Altheimer Training (High) School in 1954 at the age of sixteen She had no choice as to where to attend college as going to college out of state was financially impossible and at this time there were no affirmative action admissions to college so in state student admissions would have taken precedence over out of state black student admissions At the time Arkansas A M now called the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the only college ...

Article

David De Clue

astronaut, was born Michael Phillip Anderson in Plattsburgh, New York, to Barbara and Andy “Bobby” Anderson. Because his father was a member of the United States Air Force, young Anderson moved regularly until the family settled in Spokane, Washington, in the 1960s. It was there that he attended public schools and became fascinated with America's space race. Michael would wear goggles when cutting lawns because he knew that he needed to protect his eyes in order to be an astronaut.

After high school Anderson went to the University of Washington, where in 1981 he received a bachelor of science degree in Physics and Astronomy, and then went to Creighton University, where he received a master of science degree in Physics in 1990 As an undergraduate he received pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma and as a postgraduate he piloted KC 130 and T 38 transport ...

Article

Courtney L. Young

African Americans have always played an important part in the U.S. space program. Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. was the first African American astronaut, although he never went on a space mission. Lawrence was an air force test pilot and among the first people named to the U.S. Air Force manned orbiting laboratory program, a precursor to the space shuttle program developed in the 1960s by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Lawrence died in an airplane accident in 1967, and NASA did not recruit another African American astronaut for more than ten years.

In 1978 three African American men were selected by NASA for the astronaut training program: Guion S. Bluford Jr., Frederick Gregory, and Ronald E. McNair. Bluford became the first African American to fly in space in 1983 and he took part in four missions totaling more than 688 hours in space ...

Article

Robert Fay

Located near the city of Aswan, the Aswan High Dam provoked controversy even before it was constructed. The United States had promised funds to Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser to underwrite the construction of the dam. Egypt claimed nonalignment during the Cold War—that is, it allied with neither the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) nor the United States. However, while seeking funding for the dam, Egypt completed an arms deal with the USSR In retaliation, the United States withdrew the funding offer, whereupon Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal claiming that revenue from the canal would offset the dam s construction costs This provoked an international conflict over control of the canal Nasser meanwhile secured funds from the USSR for one third of the dam s construction costs the total of which exceeded $1 billion The dam was an important part of Nasser s vision for Egypt He sought ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dream of flying became a reality and the nation's expectations of the new technology were enormous—some thought it would even eliminate warfare. African Americans hoped to enter this new arena, in part to put to rest society's deeply held belief that blacks were an inferior race. In 1992, however, the Organization of Black Airline Pilots stated that only 600 of the nation's 70,000 commercial airline pilots were African American. The number rises when private and military pilots are considered, but numbers remain small.

The earliest African American pilot is thought to have been Charles Wesley Peters in 1911. Eugene J. Bullard (1894–1961) was the only black fighter pilot in World War I, having flown for the French. The first black woman to obtain a license (in 1921) was Bessie Coleman (1892–1926 she too had ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

meteorologist, was born June Esther Griffin in Wichita, Kansas, the only child of James Griffin, an auto mechanic who put himself through law school and eventually became an attorney, and Cherrie MacSalles, a music teacher. The name she is known by, Bacon-Bercey, is a combination of the last names of her first two husbands. She was married to Walker Bacon, a doctor, from 1956 to 1967 and to John Bercey, a businessman, from 1968 to 1980. Encouraged by her parents, Bacon-Bercey became interested in science at a very young age, and in high school a physics teacher steered her toward a career in meteorology. Bacon-Bercey attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where she earned a BS in Mathematics and Meteorology in 1954 despite the attitude of many of her professors who felt that a woman was better suited to studying home economics ...

Article

Janice L. Greene

first African AmericanPatent Examiner, a lawyer, and author of The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (Crisis Publishing Co., 1913) and other works on black inventors and scientists of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was born in Columbus, Mississippi. Little is known of his parents or his early life in Columbus, except that he attended public schools and the Columbus Union Academy. Toward the end of Reconstruction, in June 1874, he was selected to attend the Annapolis, Maryland, naval academy by white Congressman Henry W. Barry R Mississippi who had commanded black troops for the union Army during the Civil War Despite government and naval policies during this period directing the military to integrate the first two African American cadets failed to survive intense hazing taunting assaults and social isolation from classmates and left before graduation Still Congressman Barry originally from New ...

Article

Kenyatta D. Berry

engineer, machinist, and inventor, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of the free blacks Thomas and Hannah Baltimore. Though his father was a Catholic, Jeremiah followed his mother's influence and adopted the Methodist religion. As a child Jeremiah was fascinated with engineering and science. He was known to have experimented often with such utilitarian things as tin cans, coffeepots, stovepipes, and brass bucket hoops.

Jeremiah was educated at the Sabbath School of the Wesley Zion Church in Washington, D.C., which was located on Fourth Street near Virginia Avenue and was founded in 1839 after black members left the Ebenezer Church. As part of his education Jeremiah also attended the school of Enoch Ambush, which had begun operation in about 1833 in the basement of the Israel Bethel Church and remained open until 1864 Despite his attendance Jeremiah left unable either to read or to ...

Article

Crystal L. Keels

missile engineer, trailblazer, and advocate for social reform, was born in 1924 in Detroit, Michigan to parents Carrie and Chester Banfield. His grandfather Moses was born into slavery and managed to move his family up North. The family moved to Detroit from Dublin, Georgia during the Great Migration and settled in Black Bottom, near the Detroit River. Moses brought his wife, Odessa, who was half Blackfoot Indian, and their five sons and four daughters to live a better life outside of the South.

One of six siblings William Banfield s early interests included a love of learning As a child he was particularly inspired by the story of the black revolutionary Toussaint Louverture in Haiti that he read about in an adventure book Reading was an important part of his life and in grammar school he was chosen to represent his school for his work on ...

Article

Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born in Baltimore County, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was one of several children born to Robert, a freed slave from Guinea, and Mary Banneker. Mary's mother, Molly Welsh, came to the American colonies as an indentured servant from England and later married one of her slaves, an African of royal descent named Bannaka or Banneky. Banneker and his sisters were born free and grew up on a self-sufficient tobacco farm of 40 hectares (100 acres). Banneker received the equivalent of an eighth-grade education at a local integrated school and was also tutored by his grandmother. Growing up, he spent much of his free time devising and solving mathematical puzzles. He took over the farm after his father's death in 1759.

In the eighteenth century clocks and watches were rare devices constructed in metal by skilled artisans At the age of twenty two Banneker created a ...

Article

Silvio A. Bedini

farmer and astronomer, was born near the Patapsco River in Baltimore County in what became the community of Oella, Maryland, the son of Robert, a freed slave, and Mary Banneky a daughter of a freed slave named Bannka and Molly Welsh a freed English indentured servant who had been transported to Maryland Banneker was taught by his white grandmother to read and write from a Bible He had no formal education other than a brief attendance at a Quaker one room school during winter months He was a voracious reader informing himself in his spare time in literature history religion and mathematics with whatever books he could borrow From an early age he demonstrated a talent for mathematics and for creating and solving mathematical puzzles With his three sisters he grew up on his father s tobacco farm and for the rest of his life Banneker continued to ...

Article

Frank Towers

Benjamin Banneker was born on a farm near Elkridge Landing, Maryland, on the Patapsco River, ten miles southwest of Baltimore. His mother, Mary Banneky, was a freeborn African American. Her parents were Molly Welsh, an English indentured servant, and Bannaka, a Dogon nobleman captured in the slave trade and bought by Molly Welsh. In 1700 Welsh freed Bannaka, and they married. Benjamin's father, was born in Africa and transported to America as a slave, where he was known as Robert. In Maryland, Robert purchased his freedom and married Bannaka and Molly's daughter, Mary Banneky, whose surname he adopted and later changed to Banneker. Robert's success in tobacco farming enabled him to buy enough land (seventy-two acres) to support his son and three younger daughters.

Benjamin Banneker was intellectually curious especially about mathematics and science but he had little formal education Scholars disagree about claims that he attended school for ...