The Story of Black Scientists Born in the 19th Century

09 February 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


The technological innovations developed in Africa have an important place in the history of invention and date back to the ancient world. Africans had a knowledge of astronomy, agricultural science, engineering, and medicine based on natural plant products. Although this knowledge was often more developed in Africa than anywhere else in the world, African contributions were mostly ignored by the rest of the world. Many contributions of Blacks to modern technology are still not widely known. In 1913 alone, more than a thousand inventions were patented by African Americans who were fortunate enough to be accepted at the patent office. Many other enslaved black inventors discovered medicines as well as labor-saving devices, but were not allowed to patent them in their own names; their enslavers stole both credit and profit for their discoveries. In this article, we hope to inspire young people of all colors by telling the stories of black scientists who developed products, medicines, and systems that changed lives. All scientists presented here were born before the 20th century, when Blacks were up against severe forms of oppression and inhumanity. Black people faced unparalleled obstacles in accessing both primary and higher education, and the few educational facilities that were available to Blacks were inadequate compared to those available to whites. Additionally, black people could not obtain housing or jobs, and they were not recognized or included as members of society. Despite these challenges, some of the greatest scientific discoveries in science were made by black people. The black scientists highlighted here did not have equal access to education during their lifetime, and it was only through perseverance that were they able to overcome obstacles and earn educational degrees. We highlight the scientific discoveries made by some of the most brilliant black scientists during this era, depicting how racist laws and practices affected them, and we discuss them chronologically by their date of birth to identify the social changes that occurred over the years.


Black Scientists
19th Century


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