Celebrating Black Engineers
According to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, diversity among engineers can improve innovation, profitability, ethics, and customer satisfaction. However, Black people are underrepresented throughout all engineering roles. According to the National Science Foundation, a smaller proportion of Black people are in science and engineering occupations than are in the workforce as a whole – 5 percent versus 12 percent.
Because of this, organizations like the National Society of Black Engineers exist. Their mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”
To honor that mission and celebrate Black History Month, we’re looking at Black engineers who have made significant contributions to engineering and technology.
Dean is a computer engineer and inventor who played a crucial role in developing the IBM personal computer in the 1980s. He developed the ISA bus and led a team to create the one-gigahertz computer processing chip. Dean’s computer science feats earned him the title of the first-ever Black IBM Fellow in 1995.
Shirley Ann Jackson
Jackson is a physicist and the first African American woman to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jackson’s degree in theoretical elementary particle physics led her to study the fundamental properties of materials used in the semiconductor industry, and she served as head of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Jackson was recognized as one of the “50 Most Important Women in Science” in 2002.
Bluford is an aerospace engineer and former NASA astronaut who, in 1983, became the second African American to go to space. He spent 29 days in space across four different NASA missions. Bluford was also a U.S. Air Force officer and authored several papers on fluid dynamics.
Georgia Louise Harris Brown
Brown was an architect who is said to be the second African American licensed as an architect in the United States. In 1949, Brown began work on structural calculations for a Chicago apartment project and worked in structural and civil architecture and engineering. Later, Brown moved to Brazil due to a lack of professional opportunities due to her race and notably helped design a Kodak film plant in São Jose dos Campos.
The contributions of Black engineers to technology and engineering are immense and deserving of recognition. These examples, along with hundreds more scientists and engineers, demonstrate the remarkable impact that Black engineers can have when given the opportunity to excel. As we celebrate Black History Month, we recognize the achievements and contributions of Black engineers and hope to inspire the next generation to pursue their passions.
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