(BLACK History Month) These trailblazers paved the way for a new generation of women and girls in science.
Black women have contributed greatly to STEM, despite being grossly underrepresented in the field. According to a 2017 report from the National Science Foundation, Black women and men hold less than 5 percent of managerial positions within STEM.
In 2016, Black women made up only 2.9 percent of students earning bachelor degrees in STEM, but thanks to films like Hidden Figures — which illuminated stories of pioneers like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson — and heightened attention on STEM careers, the conversation surrounding women in science continues to gro
In honor of Black History Month, and the International Day of Women in Science, check out seven trailblazers who paved the way for a new generation of women and girls in science, technology, engineering and math.
Dr. Patricia Bath
A noted physician, inventor, and graduate from Howard University College of Medicine, Patricia Bath became the first black doctor to land a medical patent, which she received in 1988, for the laserphaco probe, a devise used to treat cataract patients. Bath also became the first Black person to complete an ophthalmology residency in the U.S., and later became the first woman to chair an ophthalmologist program, and the first female ophthalmologist to be appointed to faculty at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute.
Dr. May Edward Chinn
Bon in Great Barrington, Mass., in 1896, Dr. May Edward Chinn went on to become the first Black woman to graduate from New York’s Bellevue Hospital Medical College. She was also the first black woman to intern at Harlem Hospital, and the first woman allowed to ride in the hospital’s ambulance during an emergency calls.
Dr. Marie Maynard Daly
Pioneering biochemist Dr. Marie Maynard Daly became the first Black woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D in chemistry. A native of Queens, Daly credited her mother with cultivating her love for science and her fascination with the inner workings of the human body. She graduated with honors from Queens College in 1942, and went on to earn a graduate degree from NYU, along with master’s and doctorate degrees from Columbia University.
A valiant researcher, Daly landed a grant from the American Cancer Society in 1948, which led to a seven-year study on how the body constructs proteins. In the mid-1950s, Daly returned to Columbia where she studied the cause of heart attacks, and subsequently outlined the connection between diet and heart health. Daly also taught biochemistry, encouraged minority students to pursue higher education in STEM fields, and founded her own scholarship at Queens College in 1988
Dr. Patricia S. Cowings
Aeropace psychophysiologist and inventor, Dr. Patricia S. Cowings, has spent years studying the physiological effects that being in space has on the human body, and intern helped numerous astronauts adapt to space. A native of the Bronx and graduate of UC Davis, Cowings is the first woman to be trained as a NASA scientist astronaut and in 1997, she invented the Autogenic-Feedback Training systems and methods, which can be used to help humans voluntarily control 24 bodily reactions including breathing, heart rate and sweating.
Cowings currently works as a researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center in the Human Systems Integration Division, and is the lead investigator of the Psychophysiological Research Lab.
Dr. Latanya Sweeney
An award-winning computer scientist and Professor of Government and Technology in Residence at Harvard University, Dr. Latanya Sweeney is best known for co-introducing the theory of k-anonymity. According to her website, Sweeny’s mission is to “create and use technology to assess and solve societal, political and governance problems.”
In 2001, Sweeney became the first Black woman to earn a PhD in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.