Home Inspiration & Success PageDo You Know? What Do You Know About Top African Contributions to Science?

What Do You Know About Top African Contributions to Science?


By Chris Ezeh & Martin Adams
Do you know there are many Black African inventors and scientists you never read about or see their reports in mainsteam media. We have made a list of some of these top Black scientists, engineers, inventors and mathematicians, to help you re-educate yourself and also help bring their work—and stories into our classrooms.

Christiaan Neethling Barnard  from South Africa  became the first surgeon to perform the first human open heart transplantation in 1967.

1752 Benjamin Banneker, with nothing more than an eighth grade education and a pocket watch he received as a gift to guide him, built a clock completely made of wood.

1792 Benjamin Banneker, self-made astronomer, published his almanac, which offered weather data, tidal information on the Chesapeake Bay, medical remedies, and abolitionist essays.

1834 Henry Blair receives a patent for his invention of a corn-planting machine.

1843 Norbert Rillieux’s developed a method for refining sugar. It consisted of a series of vacuum pans combined in a step-by-step process to make heated evaporated sugar into crystalized granules.

1872 Elijah McCoy acquired his first patent for his invention of a device that allowed machines to lubricate while still in operation.

1878 Inventor J. R. Winters develops a fire escape ladder. Inventor W. A. Lavalette receives a patent for a variation on the printing press.

1884 The first African-American medical society, the Medico-Chirugical Society of Washington, D.C. is founded April 24. Granville Woods receives his first two patents, for a steam boiler furnace and a telephone transmitter.

1885 Sarah Goode receives a patent for a folding cabinet bed.

1892 Andrew Beard is granted a patent for his rotary engine. Sarah Boone came up with an idea for a narrow wooden board, with collapsible leg supports and covered with padding. Prior to her ironing board, this task normally required taking a plank and placing it between two chairs or simply using the dining table.

1897 Andrew J. Beard invents the “Jenny Coupler,” an automatic system for coupling railroad cars.

1921 Bessie Coleman is the first African American worldwide to become a licensed airplane pilot. Her accreditation is from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale in France.

1923 Garrett A. Morgan, inventor of the gas mask, receives the patent on November 20 for the automatic traffic light, which he sells to General electric for $40,000.

1935 Chemist Percy Julian develops physostogmine, a drug for the treatment of the eye disease glaucoma.

1980 Levi Watkins, Jr., is the first surgeon to implant an automatic defibrillator in the human heart, a device that corrects arrhythmia, or a failure of the heart to pump properly.

1983 Guion S. Bluford, Jr., participates in a mission of the space shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space.

1985 John P. Moon, a pioneer in personal computer technology, is appointed chief of Apple Computer’s peripheral devices division, and starts working on the revolutionary new disk for the Macintosh computer.

Dr. Maathai, the first female professor in Kenya, was also the first African female recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1977, Dr. Maathia started and led the Green Belt Movement, which aims to counter deforestation. The campaign encouraged women to think ecologically and to plant trees in their local environments, leading to the spread of the movement to other African countries. Dr. Maathai passed away in 2011, but thanks to her efforts, more than thirty million trees have been planted.

Professor Okeke is a Nigerian Professor of Physics at the University of Nigeria and the first female to head the university’s faculty of physical sciences. Prof. Okeke is the recipient of the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award for her significant contributions to the understanding of climate change. She’s advocated for the further inclusion of women in the university’s department, which led to the employment of three new female faculty members. Prof. Okeke continues to encourage girls and women to participate in the development of science and technology.

Dr. Elagroudy is an Egyptian professor of environmental engineering. She became interested in helping her country’s economy and environment during university, where she became involved with a group that was looking to start a campus-recycling program. They successfully implemented a program that allowed tonnes of recyclable materials from landfills to be reused. Dr. Elagroudy’s commitment to the environment has been recognized: She was awarded the Best Young Scientist award from an Egyptian university, received the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science, and was honoured as a young scientist at the World Economic Forum in China.

The Restorers’ (Stacy Owino, Cynthia Otieno, Purity Achieng, Mascrine Atieno, and Ivy Akinyi) are five bright tech-fricks young teens from Kenya who invented an app, I-Cut, to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)  in Kenya and call themselves “the Restorers,” as their mission is to restore hope to hopeless girls.  The most amazing part of their story? They were flown to Google’s HQ to showcase their invention, which will no doubt help many girls and women end this discriminatory practice and see girls go to school.

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