Black History Month: 5 influential black Engineers

Black history month was first launched in London in the 1980s, where the aim was for the local community to challenge racism and educate themselves and others about the British history that was not taught in schools. This month provides the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of black Engineers who had an impact on the Civil Engineering industry and helped pave the way for future generations of Engineers. 


Below are 5 influential Black Engineers that paved the way for the Engineers of today.


1. George Biddle Kelley

In 1908, George Biddle Kelley graduated from Cornell University's College of Civil Engineering. He became the first African-American engineer registered in the state of New York. His legacy remains through the George Biddle Kelley scholarship, which aims to mentor and provide educational funds for socioeconomically disadvantaged males in New York.


2. Annie Easley

Annie was one of the first black, female computer programmers and she did so in a time of deep discrimination and prejudice against women and people of colour. She persevered, got her BS in Mathematics from Cleveland State University and eventually helped develop computer code for rockets and energy technology. On discrimination she experienced in her career she said, “When people have their biases and prejudices, yes, I am aware. My head is not in the sand. But my thing is, if I can't work with you, I will work around you. I was not about to be so discouraged that I'd walk away. That may be a solution for some people, but it's not mine.” 


3. Horace King

Horace King was an American architect, engineer, and bridge builder. King is considered the most respected bridge builder of the 19th century Deep South, constructing dozens of bridges in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.


4. Valerie Thomas

Valerie attended Morgan State University where she was one of just two women majoring in physics. Thomas then went on to work as a data scientist at NASA, where she gained the skills and experience to develop the Illusion Transmitter. The Illusion Transmitter is a device for displaying the three-dimensional illusion of an object without using a laser.


5. Howard P. Grant

Howard was the first known black member of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1948 and became the first African-American Civil Engineer for the City and County of San Francisco and the second African-American Civil Engineer to be licensed by California. Howard was also a past president and treasurer of the California Society of Professional Engineers, an organization devoted to encouraging African-American youth to consider careers in engineering.


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