Black Pioneers in Medicine and Science


In celebration of Black History Month, here are some Black pioneers in medicine and science.


  • Dr. James McCune Smith was the first Black American to obtain a medical degree in the United States.

  • Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black American woman to obtain a medical degree in the United States.

  • Dr. Daniel Hale Williams III was a cardiologist and one of the first physicians to perform heart surgery in the United States.

  • Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first Black American psychiatrist in the United States.

  • Dr. Charles Drew was the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank.

  • Dr. Edith Irby Jones was the first woman elected president of the National Medical Association.

  • Dr. Joycelyn Elders was the first Black American and the second woman to be serve as the Surgeon General of the United States.

  • George Washington Carver was a botanist, inventor, and teacher.

  • Percy Julian was a research chemist and studied the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants.

  • Dr. Mae Carol Jemison is an engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut. She was the first Black American to travel to space.

  • Katherine Johnson is a mathematician whose work was recognized and featured in the movie Hidden Figures.

  • Gladys West is a mathematician and was the second black woman to employed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division and was inducted into the Air Force Hall of Fame.

  • Dr. Marie M. Daly was the first Black American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States.

  • Dr. Edward Bouchet was the first Black American to earn a Ph.D. from any university in the United States. He taught at the Institute for Colored Youth for 26 years.

  • Annie Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist and worked for NASA as a “human calculator.”

  • Walter Lincoln Hawkins was a chemist, scientist, and inventor who invented the plastic coating for telephone wires making universal service possible.

  • Dr. Alexa Canady is a surgeon and education and is the first female Black American neurosurgeon in the United States.

  • Dr. Velma Scantlebury is the first Black female transplant surgeon in the United States. Listen to an interview with Dr. Scantlebury on The Journey Continues Podcast.

References:

National Museum of African American History and Culture (Smithsonian). Celebrate black history month through the eyes of wellness. https://nmaahc.si.edu/explore/initiatives/black-history-month. Access on January 31, 2022.


Public Broadcast Service website. Ten black scientists that science teachers should know about. https://www.pbs.org/education/blog/ten-black-scientists-that-science-teachers-should-know-about-and-free-resources. Access on January 31, 2022.

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