Black Scientists Who Changed the World
In honor of Black History Month — and riding high on the box office success of Hidden Figures — we wanted to learn more about the lives of black scientists, many of whom were long overlooked by historians.
Our NYPL book experts recommended biographies for all ages that highlight these women and men of science and the invaluable contributions they made to their fields — medicine, biology, physics, chemistry, and much more.
Know and love other biographies of black scientists? Leave us a comment below!
Vivien Thomas, surgeon: Tiny Stitches by Gwendolyn Hooks
Wangari Maathai, biologist: Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson
Mae Jemison, astronaut: Mae Jemison by Jodie Shepherd
George Washington Carver, agricultural scientist: George Washington Carver by Dana Meachen Rau
Lonnie Johnson, inventor: Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton
Books for Slightly Older Kids
Mae Jemison, astronaut: Mae Jemison: Out of This World by Corinne J. Naden and Rose Blue
Charles Drew, surgeon: Charles Drew: The Doctor Who Got the World Pumped Up to Donate Blood
Susan McKinney Steward, George Washington Carver, Ernest Everett Just, Percy Lavon Julian, and Shirley Ann Jackson: Five Brilliant Scientists by Lynda Jones
Garrett Morgan, inventor: Garrett Morgan by Sarah Schuette
Patricia Bath, Katherine G. Johnson, Mamie Phipps Clark, Mae Jemison, Jane Cooke Wright, and more: Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
Daniel Hale Williams: Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds by Mike Venezia
George Washington Carver: George Washington Carver by Kitson Jazynka
Books for Adults
Marie Maynard Daly and many more: African American Women Chemists by Jeannette E. Brown
Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist: The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, engineer: Aerospace Engineer Aprille Ericsson by Laura Hamilton Waxman
Stephon Alexander, physicist: The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe by Stephon Alexander
Book suggestions submitted by NYPL book experts: Brian Baer, Jenny Baum, Shauntee Burns, Kathie Coblentz, Jennifer Craft, Althea Georges, Susan Tucker Heimbach, Katrina Ortega, Jeffrey Katz, Annie Lin, Amber Moller, Nanor Pagosian, Isaiah Pittman, Jenny Rosenoff, Anne Rouyer, and Amie Wright.
**All images courtesy of Wikipedia except Aprille Ericsson-Jackson, from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr; Stephon Alexander, from stephonalexander.org; Benjamin Bannecker, from blackinventor.com
Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.
Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!