black history month

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Black History Month: 10 People Who Shaped The World of STEM

This Friday, October 1st marks the start of Black History Month here in the UK. This annual observance originates from America in the 1970s and each year celebrates and remembers incredible people and events in African history. Here at Fire Tech, diversity is at the core of our values and we wanted to take this opportunity to share some inspiring stories of individuals of African descent. These 10 people were only a select few of all the people who are doing incredible work in STEM – and we really hope their stories inspire you just as much as us!

1. Gladys Mae West (1930-)

Gladys Mae West is an American mathematician. Her calculations and programming were vital in constructing a mathematical model of the earth’s shape, a geoid. Her work was vital in the construction of today’s GPS system.

2. Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville (1924-)

Dr. Evelyn Boyd Granville was the second African-American woman in U.S. history to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. Dr. Granville went on to work at IBM where she created computer software that analyzed satellite orbits for NASA space programs. She has been a fierce advocate for STEM education.

3. Bessie Coleman (1892 – 1926)

After Bessie Coleman was rejected from learning how to fly in America due to her race, she didn’t give up. She taught herself French and moved to France where she earned her pilot’s license in only 7 months. Coleman was the first black woman to fly an airplane.

4. Caleb Anderson (2009-)

Caleb Anderson is the youngest student at Georgia Tech, majoring in Aerospace engineering at only 13 years old. He qualified for MENSA at the age of just 3, an organisation that recognises people with an IQ in the top 2% of the world! He began mimicking his mother’s speech at just 4 weeks old and was reading the constitution by the age of 2!

5. Marian Croak (1955-)

Marian Croak is the Vice President of engineering at Google. She is most known for developing the Voice Over Internet Protocol, turning your voice or video into a digital signal so you can talk through the internet allowing people from all over the world to communicate in real-time. This technology is used nowadays more than ever through companies such as Skype and Zoom. She currently holds over 200 patents in the VOIP field.

6. Lonnie Johnson (1949-)

Lonnie Johnson was an Air Force and NASA engineer. Though whilst preparing for a NASA mission, Lonnie was inspired to create what would later become the Super Soaker water gun. From building a go-kart engine as a kid to a robot as a teen, Lonnie went on to join the Air Force and secured his first patent. He later joined NASA and worked as part of the Galileo mission which led to the inspiration behind the Super Soaker which went on to be released in 1990 originally called the Power Drencher.

7. Garrett Morgan (1877 – 1963)

Garrett Morgan patented the first traffic signal in the United States in 1923 after witnessing a car crash. He also invented the life-saving device, smoke safety hoods used by firemen which later developed into gas masks used in WW1. His other inventions and patents also include a hair-straightening device and an improved sewing machine.

8. Patricia Bath (1942 – 2019)

Patricia Bath was an ophthalmologist and laser scientist. She is the inventor of laser cataract surgery which helps to restore and improve patients’ vision, called the Laserphaco Probe. She was also the first black woman to patent a medical device.

9. Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922 – 1999)

Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse and an inventor. Along with her husband Albert Brown, an electronics technician, she invented the home security system in 1966. Marie and Albert’s system was the first that would alert the homeowner and contact authorities quickly. This invention would later lead to the development of CCTV and help create a safer society.

10. Nzambi Matee (1992-)

Nzambi Matee founded Gjenge Makers. She found a way of turning plastic waste in Kenya into bricks stronger than concrete with a mission to create more housing. She was named a young champion of the Earth 2020 Africa winner at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

About Fire Tech

Fire Tech’s mission is to give young people the tools and inspiration to become the tech creators, makers, and leaders of the future. We have delivered over 80,000 learning experiences to young people across the world. Courses include Python & Java coding, AI, game design, and digital media production. Each workshop is designed to teach young people future skills such as design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving. All of our programmes are taught by tech-savvy teachers from some of the UK’s leading universities. 

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