African Americans in Science

Daniel Hale Williams
This is an image of heart surgery pioneer Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, founder of Provident Hospital. Bettmann/Getty Images

African Americans have made significant contributions in various fields of science. Contributions in the field of chemistry include the development of synthetic drugs for the treatment of chronic ailments. In the field of physics, African Americans have helped to invent laser devices for the treatment of cancer patients. In the field of medicine, African Americans have developed treatments for various diseases including leprosy, cancer, and syphilis.

African Americans in Science

From inventors and surgeons to chemists and zoologists, African Americans have made invaluable contributions to science and humanity. Many of these individuals were able to have great success in the face of bigotry and racism. Some of these notable scientists include:

  • Otis Boykin
    DOB: (1920 - 1982)
    Major Accomplishments: Otis Boykin invented 28 electronic devices including the control unit for the heart pacemaker. He patented a wire precision resistor that was cost effective to manufacture and improved function in electronic devices such as transistor radios, missile systems, televisions, and IBM computers. Other inventions of Boykin include a burglar-proof cash register, an electrical resistance capacitor, and a chemical air filter.
  • Dr. Ben Carson
    DOB: (1950 - )
    Major Accomplishments: This Johns Hopkins' pediatric neurosurgeon and professor led a medical team that became the first to separate Siamese twins successfully. Dr. Ben Carson was also the first to perform an interuterine procedure for the treatment of a hydrocephalic twin. He also performed a hemispherectomy (removal of half of the brain) in an infant to stop severe epileptic seizures.
  • Emmett W. Chappelle
    DOB: (1925 - )
    Major Accomplishments: This biochemist worked for NASA and discovered a method for detecting bacteria in water, food, and body fluids through studies of bioluminescence. Emmett Chappelle's studies in luminescence have also produced methods for using satellites for monitoring crops.
  • Dr. Charles Drew
    DOB: (1904 -1950)
    Major Accomplishments: Best known for his work with blood plasma, Charles Drew helped set up the American Red Cross blood bank. He also established the first blood bank in England and developed standards for collecting blood and processing blood plasma. Additionally, Dr. Drew developed the first mobile blood donation centers.
  • Dr. Lloyd Hall
    DOB: (1894 - 1971)
    Major Accomplishments: His work in food sterilization and preservation improved processes in food packing and preparation. Dr. Lloyd Hall's sterilization techniques have been adapted for use in the sterilization of medical equipment, spices, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Dr. Percy Julian
    DOB: (1899 - 1975)
    Major Accomplishments: This research chemist is known for developing synthetic steroids for use in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Dr. Percy Julian also developed a process for creating a soy protein foam that was used to extinguish fires on aircraft carriers.
  • Dr. Charles Henry Turner
    DOB: (1867-1923)
    Major Accomplishments: This zoologist and behavioral scientist is known for his work with insects. Turner's studies with honey bees demonstrated that they can distinguish colors. Dr. Charles Henry Turner was also the first to demonstrate that insects can hear sounds.
  • Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
    DOB: (1856-1931)
    Major Accomplishments: Dr. Daniel Williams founded the Provident Hospital in Chicago. In 1893, he performed the first successful open heart surgery. He is also the first African American surgeon to perform surgery on the pericardium of the heart to repair a wound.

Other African American Scientists and Inventors

The following table includes more information on African American scientists and inventors.

African American Scientists and Inventors
Scientist Invention
Bessie Blount Developed a device to help disabled persons eat
Phil Brooks Developed the disposable syringe
Michael Croslin Developed the computerized blood pressure machine
Dewey Sanderson Invented the urinalysis machine
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Your Citation
Bailey, Regina. "African Americans in Science." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2021, Bailey, Regina. (2021, September 7). African Americans in Science. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "African Americans in Science." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 31, 2023).