#CelebrateWithDE – African American Women in STEM

In honor of Women’s History Month, we celebrate African American figures in the STEM fields to inspire the next generation of trailblazing girls and young people interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Dr. Mae Jemison

In 1992, Dr. Mae Carol Jemison became the first African-American woman to travel in space. Born October 17, 1956, in Alabama, she studied chemical engineering at Stanford University and earned her medical degree from Cornell University. On her 1992 mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavor, Jemison conducted experiments in life science and materials science. After leaving NASA, she became a professor at Dartmouth College and founded a research company.

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Bessie Coleman

Pioneering aviator Bessie Coleman, born January 26, 1892, was the first woman of African American descent, and the first of Native American descent, to hold a pilot license. After college, knowing that the field of aviation had no African Americans, Coleman asserted, “I thought it my duty to risk my life to learn aviation and to encourage flying among men and women of our Race.” Coleman enrolled in an aviation school in France, specializing in parachuting and stunt flying, and earned the first international pilot’s license granted to an American flier from Federation Aeronautique Internationale. She performed and lectured all around the world, refusing to perform anywhere segregation existed, including in her own hometown.

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Dr. Patricia Bath

Dr. Patricia Bath, born November 4, 1942, completed many firsts, both as a woman and as an African American, including the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Dr. Bath’s love of math and science was inspired by microscope set she was given as a young child, and she now is the holder of four patents, including the Laserphaco Probe, which which quickly dissolves the cataract with a laser, restoring vision for those who have been unable to see. She pioneered “community ophthalmology”, a volunteer-based outreach to bring eye care to underserved populations, and founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

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Dr. Marjorie Lee Browne

Dr. Marjorie Lee Browne was one of the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Dr. Browne was born on September 9, 1914. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Dr. Browne applied to the University of Michigan graduate program in mathematics, a school that accepted African Americans when many educational institutions did not. After graduating, Browne eventually joined the faculty at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University (NCCU)), where she taught, researched, and was head of the department. Throughout her career, Dr. Browne focused on encouraging math education for minorities and women and strove to provide continuing education for secondary teachers.

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Dr. Carla Hayden

Dr. Carla Hayden is the first woman and the first African American to take charge of the Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest and largest collection. Born August 10, 1952, Dr. Hayden loved books and reading as a little girl, but didn’t consider library sciences as a career until after graduating from college. She went on to receive her master’s and doctorate degrees in Library Science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School and worked in several museums, libraries, and universities. She was honored as the national Librarian of the Year in 1995 and served as president of the American Library Association. In her role as Librarian of Congress, Dr. Hayden considers the continuing importance of the library in the digital age and issues of equity and access.

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Katherine Johnson

This video profiles the life and career of NASA mathematician, astrophysicist, and space scientist Katherine Johnson. President Obama awarded Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her work on every major NASA space program over the course of three decades.

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