Black History: Meet Four Black Women Who Broke Barriers in STEM Careers

Pioneers. World-changers. Heroes. To celebrate Black History Month, the T.D. Jakes Foundation is shining a spotlight on notable Black women who have paved the way in STEM fields.

These are four extraordinary Black women in STEM you should know:

Mae Jemison is a physician, engineer and former NASA astronaut. In 1992, the Stanford graduate became the first Black woman in space on the Space Shuttle Endeavor. Since her time at NASA, she has taught at Dartmouth College and Cornell University, received several honorary doctorate degrees, and has been an active advocate for empowering the next generation of young women to pursue STEM careers.

Dorothy Lavinia Brown attended Bennett College, an HBCU in Greensboro, NC, and served as a doctor in World War II. In 1948-1949, she became the first Black female surgeon in the racially segregated South. She went on to become the first Black female elected to the Tennessee General Assembly, and later taught surgery at Meharry Medical College. Though she passed away in 2004, her legacy lives on.

Alice Ball was an African-American chemist who discovered and developed the first successful treatment for leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease). Sadly, Ball was only 24 years old when she died, but she made a profound impact on countless lives. Because of her work which became known as the “Ball Method,” thousands of those affected were treated and allowed to return to their families after years of isolation.

Patricia Bath was a physician, inventor, and the first Black doctor to obtain a medical

patent — in 1988 for the Laserphaco Probe to treat patients with cataracts. A Howard University graduate, Bath was also the first African-American to complete an ophthalmology residency.

Thank you to these women for not only inspiring us with your accomplishments, but also for breaking down racial and gender barriers. We are forever indebted to you.

Mae Jemison, Dr. Dorothy Lavinia Brown, Alice Ball, and Dr. Patricia Bath, we salute you!