Lunar Surface Ultraviolet Camera

February is host to the annual observance of Black History Month (BHM) in the US and Canada. The month is a way of remembering and honoring black figures, events, and communities. This year, we wanted to cover important figures in IT, computing, and STEM. Unfortunately, we couldn’t list them all. So in this week’s blog post, we’re raising awareness for black programmers, inventors, scientists, and engineers that don’t have the immediate name recognition they deserve.

Lewis Temple


Lewis Temple Statute

Born into slavery in Richmond, VA in 1800, Lewis Temple quite possibly had the least likely shot of ending up on this list. After moving to Massachusetts, he became a relatively successful blacksmith. Living in a whaling town, he would use concepts from Eskimo and other native american harpoons to invent a toggling harpoon tip which caught on in the mid-1800s. Sadly, a series of injuries combined with the overt prejudice of the time resulted in Temple living his final days in debt and with little recognition. In modern times, a statue of Lewis Temple and his invention stands in New Bedford, MA.

Patricia Bath


Patricia Bath

Born in 1942, the ophthalmologist holds a number of impressive accomplishments. Most famous for inventing laser cataract surgery, she was also the first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology and the first African-American woman to receive a medical patent, of which she would eventually hold five. If this wasn’t a great enough contribution to mankind, she also helped found the non-profit American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness and frequently traveled the globe treating eyesight. She passed away in 2019, but her contributions to eyesight and human progress will continue to be felt.

Valerie Thomas


Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas didn’t gain much support for interest in science from her parents, who enlisted her in an all-girls African American school. Still, a select few teachers offered guidance, and she was admitted to Morgan State University. She began her career as a data analyst for NASA. After witnessing an illusion exhibition, she invented and received a patent for the illusion transmitter. The transmitter, still used by NASA, would allow for the creation of magnetic resonance imaging technology and three-dimensional television. She eventually worked her way up to associate chief of the Space Science Data Operations Office at NASA. The position allowed her to work on projects related to Hailey’s Comet, the Voyager spacecraft, and ozone and satellite research.’

Jerry Lawson


Jerry Lawson

What if you had to buy an entire video game console for each new game? Well, without Jerry Lawson, that would have been the only possibility. Lawson, one of the few African American engineers working in computing at the time, helped create the Fairchild Channel F. The console was notable for being the first home video game system with interchangeable games. This capability was so instrumental to game development that he has been called the Father of Modern Gaming.’

Janet Bashen


Janet Bashen

Software developer, entrepreneur, and business consultant Janet Bashen attended a segregated elementary school in Huntsville, AL until fifth grade. She later graduated with a BS in legal studies and government from the University of Houston and a MJ-LEL from Tulane Law School. In 1994, Bashen founded her own company, the Bashen Corporation, to investigate discrimination claims filed by employees. Here, she received a patent for LinkLine, a web-based application for Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) claims management and documentation. This feat makes her the first African-American woman to receive a patent for web-based software. As part of her social justice advocacy, she has tested before the U.S. House of Representatives on issues surrounding the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

George Robert Carruthers


George Carruthers with his invention, the ultraviolet camera

It may be easier to say what George Robert Carruthers was rather than what he was not. An engineer, scientist, physicist, and space scientist, Cincinnati native’s contributions to science cannot be understated. He developed the ultraviolet camera that allowed astronauts on the Apollo 16 mission to map the outermost atmosphere of Earth and distant stars and galaxies. He also used his instruments to prove that molecular hydrogen exists in gaseous space mediums. Carruthers died of congestive heart failure on December 26, 2020 in Washington D.C. where he had spent most of his working life. His awards include being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and receiving the National Medal of Technology and Invention from Barack Obama in 2012 and 2013. 

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Last, but certainly not least, is the man, the myth, the legend: Lonnie Johnson. Born in 1941 to a WWII vet and a nurse’s aid, Johnson always wanted to know how things worked. In one famous story, he almost burned his house down trying to cook up rocket fuel over his stove. His penchant for engineering would serve him well. Johnson would help develop the nuclear power source for the Galileo Jupiter mission and the B-2 stealth bomber project for NASA and the US Air Force. But this success paled in comparison to his own invention, the Super Soaker. With sales approaching over $1 billion, the Super Soaker would be inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2015 for its role in saving children from summertime boredom.

For more IT-related blogs, follow the link here.

To contact ePATHUSA about our services, follow the link here.