Celebrating Mathematicians During Black History Month

What do 3D televisions, the Super Soaker water gun, and the first gigahertz computer chip have in common? They wouldn’t exist without the contributions of Black mathematicians! As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s look at some influential figures who have shaped the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Building Legacies on a Foundation of Math

Many people aren’t familiar with how math relates to other fields of science. Math is more than just basic numbers and calculations. The skills obtained from a mathematics education can extend to various other industries. Here are five notable mathematicians and industries that benefited from their talents:

  1. Benjamin Banneker – In the 18th century, Benjamin Banneker built the first striking wooden clock in America. Banneker was self-taught in astronomy and trigonometry, which gave him the knowledge to correctly predict a 1789 solar eclipse.
  2. Elbert Frank Cox – Cornell University awarded Elbert Frank Cox with a Ph.D. in mathematics, where he became the first Black man in the world to earn this degree. Cox eventually went on to teach math at Howard University and became head of the department in 1957.
  3. Valerie Thomas – The Illusion Transmitter is known as the technological foundation for today’s 3D movies, TVs, and video games. In addition to building this technology, Valerie Thomas also worked for NASA, where she helped develop another type of technology known as Landsat. This was used by the first satellite to deliver images from space.
  4. Lonnie Johnson – The Super Soaker and Nerf Gun can both be attributed to mathematician Lonnie Johnson. He also helped develop the stealth bomber while in the Air Force and has over 120 patents for various inventions.
  5. Mae Carol Jemison – In 1992, Mae Carol Jemison made history as she traveled on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and became the first Black woman to visit space. Not only is Jemison an astronaut, but she also has an accomplished background as an engineer, mathematician, and physician.

Supporting Diversity in STEM

The VeraRosa Higher-Learning Scholarship was founded to encourage students of all backgrounds to pursue an education in STEM. We believe that all students are deserving of higher education and that our local communities will benefit from this investment. We’re confident that our students can continue bringing new ideas to the world of STEM with our help. If you’d like to get involved and help support diverse students, please contact us today to learn more.