Movers and Shakers in STEM

Watch the video recording of

"Movers and Shakers in STEM"

"We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort" - Jesse Owens This presentation on the Movers and Shakers in STEM will highlight a variety of Black individuals who have paved the way for the current generation to succeed. We’ll honor the achievements of these scientists and scholars throughout STEM history while also discussing those who are currently making moves. Join our presenter, ACHS Integrative Health & Wellness Program Chair Dr. Nicole Betschman, for this important conversation about Black history in STEM.

Importance of Black History Month

  • Started in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson
  • Highlights the achievements that African Americans have contributed throughout society


  • We will discuss various ‘movers and shakers’ in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • Some you may have heard of in the past and some may be new
  • I challenge you to think about these individuals the next time you come across one of their inventions or innovations

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

  • She was the first African-American physician in the U.S.
  • Published “A Book of Medical Discourses”

Focused on maternal and pediatric care

Influenced by homeopathy

  • “Sought every opportunity to relieve the suffering of others.”

James McCune Smith 

  • First African-American doctor to run a pharmacy and have his own practice in the U.S.
  • Smith devoted much of his life to working with abolitionists to end slavery in the South
  • He died about three weeks before the passage of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution abolished slavery.

Jane C. Wright

  • Highest ranked African American woman at NY Medical College
  • First woman elected President of the NY Cancer Center
  • Pioneered the use of methotrexate for breast and skin cancer
  • Much of her work was dedicated to chemotherapy and cancer research in other countries

Guion Bluford Jr.

  • Flew 144 combat missions during the Vietnam War
  • First African American man to travel into space
  • From 1983 to 1992, Bluford made four trips to space, working as a mission specialist on the Challenger and then on the Discovery
  • Inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame

Daniel Hale Williams 

  • Earned a medical degree Chicago in 1884
  • Opened the nation’s first black-owned interracial hospital, Provident Hospital
  • On July 10, 1893, he successfully repaired the pericardium

Mae Jemison

  • Received a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Stanford.
  • Received a M.D. from Cornell University Medical College
  • Applied to NASA’s astronaut training program and was 1 out of 15 candidates
  • First African American woman in space in 1992

Madam C.J. Walker

  • Specialized in African American hair care after suffering from scalp issues and hair loss
  • One of the first female self-made millionaires
  • "Walker Method" — involving her own formula for pomade, brushing and the use of heated combs


Julian Manly Earls

  • NASA’s first African American section head, first African American office chief, first African American division chief, and first African American deputy director
  • Wrote NASA’s first health physics guides
  • Encourages youth to study and choose careers in math and science

Charles Drew

  • First African American to earn a Doctor of Science in Medicine in 1940
  • Developed innovative ways to store blood plasma in blood banks
  • Discovered that the plasma could be dried and reconstituted later
  • Established the American Red Cross blood bank

Marie Maynard Daly

  • The first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. in Chemistry
  • Discovered how chemicals produced in the body contribute to food digestion
  • Investigator for the American Heart Association

Percy Lavon Julian

  • Pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs such as cortisone, steroids and birth control pills.
  • He invented Aero-Foam, a product that uses soy protein to put out oil and gas fires and was widely used in World War II
  • Discovered how to extract sterols from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone


Roy L. Clay

  • One of the first African Americans to graduate from St. Louis University
  • Founding member of the computer division at Hewlett-Packard
  • Development of the HP 2116A

Valerie Thomas

  • Invented the Illusion Transmitter in 1980
  • This technology was the first of its kind in the field of 3D-imagery and is the basis for modern 3D-televisions, video games, and movies.
  • Worked for NASA managed the team that developed the Landsat technology

Lisa Gelobter

  • One of the first African Americans to graduate from St. Louis University
  • Founding member of the computer division at Hewlett-Packard
  • Development of the HP 2116A

Kimberly Bryant

  • Created Black Girls Code in 2011
  • Empowers girls from underrepresented communities by introducing them to programming
  • Listed as one of the "25 Most Influential African-Americans In Technology
  • Goal of teaching one million black girls to code by 2040


Lonnie Johnson

  • Inventor, mathematician, and engineer who holds over 120 patents
  • Worked on developing the stealth bomber, and later for NASA’s Jet Propulsion program.
  • He is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun

Otis Boykin

  • Patented a "wire precision resistor“
  • His work enabled control functions for the first successful, implantable pacemaker
  • He is also known to have created a range of consumer innovations including a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter.
  • Patented over 25 devices

James West

  • African-American inventor who co-developed the condenser microphone in the 1960s
  • 60 U.S. patents and more than 200 foreign patents 
  • Co-founded the Association of Black Laboratory Employees (ABLE)
  • At age 90 in 2021, he is still an active inventor working on a device to detect pneumonia in infant lungs

Garrett Morgan

  • African American inventor who made both the first traffic signal invention and the first patented gas mask.
  • Also patented the sewing machine
  • Improved and saved countless lives worldwide, including those of firefighters, soldiers and vehicle operators, with his profound inventions

Mark Dean

  • First African American to become an IBM Fellow
  • Credited with assisting in the development of several breakthrough computer technologies for IBM.
  • He invented the first gigahertz computer chip and co-invented the Industry Standard Architecture System for computing

Norma Merrick Sklarek

  • First African American woman to pass her license exam to officially become an architect in both New York and California
  • In 1959, she became the first African American woman member of the American Institute of Architects
  • Recognized for designing the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan and Terminal One Station at LAX

W. Lincoln Hawkins

  • The first African American scientists at Bell Labs
  • Secured over 140 patents for universal telephone service
  • Won the National Medal of Technology