February 10, 2020 | Updated: June 12, 2020
These five engineers’ great strides in technological innovations and cultural breakthroughs impact our lives every day. This Black History Month, we honor the engineers who came before us to make our industry and world a better place, and celebrate today’s engineers who continue to make a difference.
1. Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison is the first African American woman to enter space on the Endeavour space shuttle in September 1992. Jemison attended Stanford University on a scholarship and earned her bachelor of science in chemical engineering and received a bachelor of arts in African and African-American studies. She then went on to attain her doctorate in medicine from Cornell University.
While orbiting the Earth on the Endeavour, Jemison co-investigated two bone cell research experiments. After Jemison left NASA, she taught at Dartmouth College and founded the Jemison Group, which encourages schools to foster student’s love of science and technology.
2. Otis Boykin
Mostly known for his wire precision resistor for televisions and radios and a control unit for the pacemaker, Otis Boykin developed a variety of technological devices and had 26 patents at the time of his death in 1982. Boykin graduated from Fisk college in Nashville, Tennessee, and later became a lab assistant with the Majestic Radio and TV Corporation in Chicago, Illinois.
Boykin also developed a device that has the ability to withstand extreme temperature changes and was used by the United State military for guided missiles and IBM computers. His passion for working with resistors made them more reliable, changed a variety of industries and paved the way for next innovations to come forward.
3. Hattie Scott Peterson
Hattie Scott Peterson paved the way for all future female engineers by being the first African American woman to hold an engineering degree. Peterson graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1946.
Peterson went on to work as a survey and cartographic engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey in California, and was passionate about encouraging women to pursue engineering as a profession.
4. Mark Dean
Mark Dean is a computer scientist and engineer who helped develop many technologies used on a daily basis. Dean is known for developing the PC monitor, the Industry Standard Architecture system bus (ISA) and the first gigahertz chip. An ISA bus allows more than one expansion card to operate with a computer’s motherboard and a gigahertz is a clock frequency that helps speed up a computer’s processor.
Dean graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1979, before moving to IBM to develop industry-changing technologies. He served as the Interim Dean and John Fisher Distinguished Professor, University of Tennessee Tickle College of Engineering in 2013 and is now retired.
5. Ayanna Howard
Ayanna Howard has made great strides in developing robotics and artificial intelligence technologies with human-like cognitive abilities. Howard, an IEEE Senior member, received a bachelor of science in engineering from Brown University and then her master of science and PhD in electrical engineering form the University of Southern California in 1999.
Howard has worked on a variety of robotic projects such as with NASA, to study Arctic ice shelves and help children with special needs. She is currently a professor and chair for the school of interactive computing at Georgia Tech.