Black History Month

With Black History month in full swing, we wanted to highlight a few African Americans that have impacted the tech world greatly. Without many of their inventions, findings, and developments, we wouldn’t have a lot of the languages, software, or apps we have today. Here are just a few, of the many, African Americans who have shaped the tech industry:

John Henry Thompson
After teaching himself multiple languages while working at a research facility, Thompson went on to develop his own language. Lingo, a Thompson creation, is used with a plethora of programs that involve graphics, animation, and sound. Without his interest in art and technology, Macromedia, would have missed a really pivotal player.  

Mark Dean
A holder of three out of nine of IBM’s original PC patents, that alone is a reason to honor Mark Dean. Aside from the work he’s done with IBM, Mark Dean has three different degrees in electrical engineering as well as having built his own computer while still in high school. One of his most recent accomplishments, and one that has helped many with storage problems, was leading the team that produced the 1-gigahertz chip. He still continues to contribute to the development of computers to this day.

Erin Teague
From Morgan Stanley to Yahoo, Erin Teague has seen engineering in all different forms. With dreams of originally being an engineer in the automotive industry, Teague now sits as the director of product development and management for Yahoo’s products (think Tumblr, Flickr, and Fantasy Sports). 

Dr. Philip Emeagwali
Ever wanted to know who created the world’s fastest computer and how? Well, Dr. Philip Emeagwali created it and did so by studying bees. His fascination with the ways bees construct and work with honeycomb led him to create a computer that used 65,000 processors – and in turn created the world’s fasted computer. With a Nobel Prize and Gordon Bell Prize under his belt, we are still seeing the successes of Emeagwali’s developments today.

Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson, known as the human computer, worked for NASA from 1953 until 1986. In a time when minorities held very few jobs in mathematics and science, Johnson was a trailblazer. Her work in calculating the paths for spaceships to travel was monumental in helping NASA successfully put an American in orbit around Earth. Then her work helped to land astronauts on the moon. Katherine Johnson was recently featured in the movie Hidden Figures along with Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. 

Dorothy Vaughan
Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was an African-American mathematics teacher who became one of the leading mathematical engineers in early days of the aerospace industry. After the U.S. defense industry desegregated, Vaughan worked with leading computer operators and engineers, becoming an expert in the FORTRAN programming coding language at NASA. She worked on the SCOUT Launch Vehicle Program that shot satellites into space. Dorothy Vaughan was recently portrayed by Octavia Spencer in the movie Hidden Figures.   

Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson grew up in Hampton, Virginia. After graduating with highest honors from high school, she then continued her education at Hampton Institute, earning her Bachelor of Science Degrees in Mathematics and Physical Science. Following graduation, Mary taught in Maryland prior to joining NASA. Mary retired from the NASA Langley Research Center in 1985 as an Aeronautical Engineer after 34 years.  Mary Jackson was recently featured in the movie Hidden Figures along with Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson. 

George E. Alcorn
While at NASA, Alcorn invented the imaging X-ray spectrometer, which allowed scientists to examine materials that couldn't be broken down into smaller parts for study. The physicist received the NASA Inventor of the Year Award in 1984 for his device. 

Roy L. Clay
Clay helped launch Hewlett-Packard's computer division in the late 1960s and is known to some as the godfather of black Silicon Valley for helping break down barriers for African Americans in technology. His recruitment and development of talent has helped usher in the next generation of black technology innovators. 

Valerie Thomas
In an era when girls weren't even encouraged to study math and science (a problem that persists today), Thomas eagerly sought information about technology. She would eventually earn a degree in physics and land a job at NASA in the mid-1960s, where she would work into the 1990s. In 1980 she received a patent for the illusion transmitter, an early form of 3-D technology. Uses for the technology have yet to be fully realized, but with the increased interest in 3-D, her work will surely be an integral part of the future. 

 

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