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Celebrating Influential African American Scientists During Black History Month

What started as “Black History Week” in 1926 has now grown into Black History Month. The monthlong celebration, which began in 1976, is a great time to get to know African American scientists whose contributions have bettered the lives of men and women around the world.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the 1860s but went on to become a world-famous botanist and inventor. He came up with more than 300 ways to use the peanut, discovered the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes, and taught Southern farmers how to conserve and nourish the soil.

Percy Julian

Born at the onset of the 20th century, Percy Julian was an accomplished chemist who pioneered the process of chemically synthesizing medicinal drugs such as steroids and cortisone from plants. His invention of “bean soup,” a unique firefighting solution, saved thousands of lives during World War II.

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Dorothy Johnson Vaughan 

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was born in 1910 and died in 2008. She worked for NASA, doing complex mathematical calculations needed to help launch satellites and astronauts such as John Glenn into space. She was also the first African American supervisor for her department.

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Harold Amos

Harold Amos was born in 1918 and died in 2003. He was the first African American microbiologist. His notable discoveries include finding 5-methylcytosine in E. Coli RNA and leading researchers in programming the synthesis of higher cell proteins. Harold Amos was also the first African American to become a department chair at Harvard Medical School. 

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Gladys West

Gladys West was born in 1930. She went on to invent the first accurate model of Earth, a model that later became the foundation for global positioning systems (GPS). She worked for the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the second African American woman to gain employment at this prestigious institution.

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Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas was born in 1943 and worked for NASA. She invented the Illusion Transmitter and later helped to develop image-processing systems to allow the first satellites to successfully send images from space. Her work has benefitted both space research and TV/video screen manufacturing companies.

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Sallie B. Howard School of Arts & Science is proud to remember the amazing achievements of these and other notable African American scientists and inventors. We’re also proud to play a role in teaching today’s youth to follow in their footsteps. Our school offers a top-tier science curriculum to provide our youth the resources and training needed to make further advancements to benefit future generations.

Here are some ways to honor and celebrate our Black History Month.

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