Every October the UK holds Black History Month (the equivalent in the US is National African American History Month in February) to celebrate the achievements and positive contributions of countless black people over the centuries. Computer science is often portrayed as a white, male middle-class subject so this page aims to redress the balance recognising the achievements of black computer scientists past and present based on profiles from cs4fn.
Find our cs4fn page on Black Computer Science History here.
Mark Dean: Computer Architecture
Mark Dean helped create the first personal computers at IBM, creating the architecture that allowed peripherals like keyboard, printer and mouse to be connected to the motherboard.
Gladys West: Satellite positioning
Gladys West’s work on accurate positions of satellites underpins satnav and other location-aware services we rely on. She also worked on the first sea observation satellite, vital in understanding climate change.
Clarence Ellis: Groupware
Clarence Ellis started by solving punched card problems but moved on to solving the problem of how two people could edit the same document without getting in a muddle.
Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan: Space-age computations
NASAs ‘hidden figures’ worked on calculations like the trajectories of spacecraft and their launch windows. They helped kick off the space age. Their pioneering lives have been made into a film.
Jeremiah Onaolapo: Cyber Security Specialist
Jeremiah Onaolapo is working to keep us safe online, he has been creating cyber-honeypots and finding out how cybercriminals really operate.
Abdigani (Abdi) Diriye: Somalia tech startups
Setting up tech start-up accelerator boot camps, coding camps, mentoring programmes and tech funding opportunities in Somali and Somaliland Abdi brings his expertise in computing to help local technology infrastructure grow and work towards solving the challenges facing Africa.
Lisa Gelobter: Multimedia via the web
Can you imagine not having videos and games embedded in web pages? How boring would it be with just text, text and more text? Lisa Gelobter led the team that developed the software that allows the inclusion of those more interesting bits.
Safiya Noble: Bias in search engines
Sociologist Safiya Noble’s research on ethics in technology has drawn attention to race and gender in algorithms. Her book “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism” looks at how a bias against people of colour can be (even unintentionally) incorporated in search engine algorithms.
Kimberly Bryant: Black Girls Code
Kimberly Bryant’s personal experience of being a black female electronics engineer led her to found Black Girls Code. Focusing on gender and race as overlapping social identities the educational group teaches 6-17 year-old girls from underrepresented communities skills in computer programming and technology.
Find out more
Anne-Marie Imafidon: STEMettes
Anne-Marie Imafidon, aged only 11 was the youngest girl to pass an A level in Computing and was only 20 when she passed a Master’s degree in Maths & Computer Science. With such a passion for STEM she co-founded STEMettes a programme to inspire young women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths!
Segun Fatumo: Bioinformatics
UK-based Segun Fatumo has put his computing know-how to use in genetic research and bioinformatics, studying the genetic basis of cardiovascular and infectious diseases in African populations.
Evelyn Boyd Granville: Space software
Early space travel required software with some very complicated mathematics. Evelyn Boyd Granville was the right mathematician for the job. She became a computer programmer working on space mission projects. Celestial mechanics, trajectory and orbit computations all needed her maths skills.
Philip Emeagwali: Supercomputing
Making computers faster and more efficient has been tracked over history as conforming to a law, Moores law, where more transistors are crammed onto a chip each and every year. However, that is not the only way to speed things up. You can think like a bee!
Victor B Lawrence: High-speed Communications
Born in Ghana, Victor B Lawrence‘s work has helped everyone to send data faster. His application of digital signal processing techniques to data communications helped information being transmitted over telephone lines or via satellite get there faster.
Roy L Clay Sr: Silicon Valley CEO
Roy L Clay Sr has had a long career in technology. Starting as a software developer he led key developments at HP and became research division director before founding a world-leading safety test equipment manufacturer.
Freddie Figgers: CEO of Figgers Communications
As a child Freddie was a genius at fixing tech with his family and solving software problems for his community. He went on to become, at only 21 years old, both the youngest person and the first Black person to own a telecoms business in the US.
More to come (of course)
This work was supported by the Institute of Coding, which is supported by the Office for Students (OfS).