Learning More About African-American Scientists

Learning More About African-American Scientists

by Randhika Aturaliya


Last month was Black History Month, which commemorates the achievements of African-Americans. However, there are just some names that we don’t hear in our history book. We don’t learn too much about African American scientists and inventors. They exist and they have done so much to help make America a better place. Here are just a few:




Dr. Charles Richard Drew

Drew’s adventures began when he began his training at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. There he learned about blood related matters alongside John Scudder. Drew developed a method for processing and preserving blood plasma which is blood without cells. When plasma is separated from the blood it can be stored for longer periods of time. In the late 1940s Drew was recruited to head a medical effort called “Blood for Britain.” With this program he was able to collect blood plasma from New York hospitals which he sent over to treat British soldiers. But not everything was smooth sailing. At first the military did not want to use the blood of African Americans but later they said the blood could only be used for African American soldiers. However, due to this racist policy, he resigned.


Percy Julian

Julian was a pioneering chemist who was not allowed to attend high school but went on to earn his Ph.D at the University of Vienna in Austria. Over the years he struggled finding a job due to his race, he finally got a job at Glidden Company. There he invented Aero-Foam, a product that uses soy protein to put out oil and fires, his invention was used in World War II. He then established his own laboratory, Julian Laboratory in 1954. He sold the company in 1961, becoming one of the first black millionaires.  As well his other accomplishments, he patented a way to synthesize physostigmin, found a way to synthesize cortisone that made the medicine readily available, and held 119 chemical patents.



Marie Maynard Daly

Daly is known for being the first African-American women to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States. After graduating from an all-girls high school, she attended Queens College in New York. She graduated with honors in 1942 and received her graduate degree in chemistry from New York University. She finished her master’s degree and in 1944 she enrolled at Columbia University where she received her Ph.D. She did groundbreaking work with the Rockefeller Institute of Medicine where she studied how proteins are produced in the body.


Sarah Breedlove (Madam C.J. Walker)

Walker was an entrepreneur, philanthropist but what makes her the most impressive is that she was the first female self-made millionaire in America. Her early entrepreneurship began to a scalp disorder she had that caused her to lose her hair. To combat this disorder she experimented with home remedies. She was then commissioned in 1905 by Annie Turnbo Malone, a successful, black hair product entrepreneur. Her husband convinced her to change her name to something more unique thus she changed her name to Madam C.J. Walker. In 1907, her husband and her travelled to promote her products which included her own formula for pomade, brushing, and heated combs. Her business grew from there.  


Granville T. Woods  

Woods is known as the “Black Edison.” He is responsible for the incubator, multiplex telegraph, improved telephone transmitter, telegraphony, and third rail. His most important invention was the multiplex telegraph which allowed men to communicate through telegraph wires, helped speed up communications, and helped prevent errors on train accidents. Woods even defeated Edison in a lawsuit that challenged his patent.

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