As women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), we are constantly looking up to those who have paved the way and continue to influence the field today.
In celebration of Black History Month, we want to highlight a few inspirational Black women in STEM whose innovative work opened doors for countless women of colour and that our community should know about.
DR. REBECCA COLE
In 1867, Rebecca Cole became the second Black female doctor in the United States when she graduated from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Committed to her community and addressing structural inequalities in the health care system, she later founded the Women's Directory Center to provide at-home medical services to women and children living in poverty. Her trailblazing efforts have had a lasting impact on the work to address racial discrimination in medicine and healthcare.
MARIE VAN BRITTAN BROWN
Necessity is the mother invention— and in the 60s, nurse Marie Van Brittan Brown addressed the need for protection in her neighbourhood of Queens, NY with an innovative home security system. Featuring 3 peepholes, a camera, a microphone, monitors, a remote-control, and an alarm, it served as the foundation for today's security systems (and also earned her an award from the National Scientists Committee).
ALICE AUGUSTA BALL
The chemist Alice Augusta Ball was the first African American and the first woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii with a Master’s Degree and then became the first African American and first female chemistry professor at the school. At age 23, she developed a revolutionary technique to treat leprosy called the "Ball Method", that ended up being the most effective leprosy treatment of the 20th century. While she died at 24 and her contributions were not recognized until years later, her legacy lives on today.
After earning her MS in Mathematics, Christine Darden was hired at NASA as a "human computer" in the computer pool, performing calculations that . Following her desire to create the data she'd been crunching, she was promoted to aerospace engineer. She didn't stop there — after earning a Ph.D in mechinical engineering, she eventually became the Director of the Aerospace Performing Center, the first Black woman to hold the highest rank at Langley Research Center. There, she lead groundbreaking research that laid the groundwork for safer, faster, and more eco-friendly planes that is still used today.