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Who Does Science? An Exploration of Minority Scientists, Physicians and Inventors 

Who Does Science? An Exploration of Minority Scientists, Physicians and Inventors 

Judy Jones

Introduction to the Teacher:

As science teachers we sometimes struggle to help our students understand that historically there have been many women and people of all ethnicities who have done the work of science. This project was originally designed to highlight African-American scientists, and the students completed the project in February (Black History Month). But I have expanded the project to include a variety of minority scientists and I do the project at the beginning of the year. The intention is that students will start the year understanding that our knowledge of the living world is based on the work of a huge number of scientists from many different ethnic groups and of both genders. In addition, throughout the year, the bulletin board outside my classroom features a weekly poster of a scientist. The scientists represent an array of ethnicities and both genders. Tests and quizzes ask questions about this scientist, so students get very interested in making sure they read the poster.

Note: This project is very “low-tech” except for the use of the internet for research. A teacher could adapt the final product, however. Instead of a poster presentation, the students could create a PowerPoint presentation or create a brochure about their scientists.

The list of scientists at the end of the student instructions has been carefully researched to ensure that there is ample information about them on the internet.

National Science Education Standard:
This activity meets the following NSES standard, but it also addresses the growing concern that students realize that science is an endeavor carried out by a great variety of people. This specific activity is designed for use in a biology class but could be adapted for any other science focus.
History and Nature of Science
CONTENT STANDARD G: As a result of activities in grades 9-12, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science as a human endeavor
  • Nature of scientific knowledge
  • Historical perspectives

There are many books that highlight minority scientists and physicians. Perhaps your school library would be willing to purchase some of them. A source for some of these books is Amazon.com.

Below are some useful, active (as of August 2004) websites. However, given the nature of the Internet, they should be checked periodically. Some of these websites have links that might be helpful.

The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences

infoplease.com =>biographies=>notable scientists


African American Scientists Bibliography (California Academy of Science Library)

Duke University Medical Center Library

The Center for Education & Equity in Mathematics, Science, & Technology (CEEMaST)

Just Garcia Hill

Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science

4000 Years of Women in Science

Carnegie Institution of Washington - First Light

The National Library of Medicine Changing the Face of Medicine

An Exploration of Minority Scientists, Physicians and Inventors

The purpose of this project is help students learn about the many minority scientists and inventors who have contributed to our scientific body of knowledge and to the well-being of all people. The focus is on people who studied biology and/or medicine, but there are some other scientists included.


  • Poster board
  • Computers
  • Internet connection
  • Markers

Introduction to the Student:
A great variety of scientists have contributed to our body of knowledge about biology. Sometimes textbooks make it seem as if only a few scientists have been involved in the work of biological investigation but in fact, men and women from all over the world have researched and explored our natural world to try and understand how living things function. They have also searched for answers to human diseases and disorders and have invented devices to improve human health. This project is designed to help you learn about just a few of these interesting people.

STEP 1 - Research: You will research one scientist from the list that has been provided. Each student will research a different person. The internet will give you adequate information on each of the people listed; however, you should find at least two different sources. Be sure to keep track of the information you need for your bibliography. Try to find out the following facts about your scientists.

  • Birth and possibly death dates.
  • Ethnicity and gender.
  • Where the person grew up and what their early life was like.
  • Where the person went to school and what he or she studied.
  • How they became a scientist.
  • What their area of research or their contribution was/is.

STEP 2 - Project: After you get all of your information, you will prepare a “proposal” supporting your scientist for selection as Time Magazine Man or Woman of the Year. Your proposal should include:

  • Basic biographical facts about your scientist – birth and death dates, place of birth, childhood experiences, education, career pathway, etc.
  • A picture (scanned, downloaded, or hand-drawn).
  • A list of reasons why this person should be given recognition on the cover of Time Magazine. (What significant contributions has this person made?)


You will present your project in the form of a poster advertisement. Your advertisement should include your proposed design for the Time Magazine cover showing the scientist you researched. Paste your bibliography to the back of the poster. Make sure your name is in the lower right hand corner of your poster.

You will be evaluated on the following:

  • Accuracy of information
  • Depth of research
  • Creativity of poster

Following is a list of scientists to research. (AA = African American)

Scientist Field Birth/Death
Bath, Patricia Physician, laserphacoprobe for cataracts 1942-
Benacerraf, Baruj Medicine, physiology 1920-
Brown, Dorothy Lavinia 1st AA female surgery resident in south 1919-
Canady, Alexa Neurosurgeon 1950-
Carson, Benjamin S. Pediatric neurosurgeon 1951-
Carver, George Washington Agricultural science 1864-1943
Chinn, May Edward 1st AA female intern Harlem Hosp 1896-1980
Cobb, Jewel Plummer Rutgers biology professor 1924-
Cobb, W. Montague Physician and medical education 1903-
Cole, Rebecca J. 1st AA female to estab. med practice in PA 1846-1922
Cota-Robles, Eugene Microbiology 1926-
Dickens, Helen Octavia 1st AA female in American College of Surgeons 1909-
Drew, Charles Physician, preservation of blood plasma 1904-1950
Dukepoo, Frank Genetics, Native American, Hopi 1944-1999
Elders, (Minnie) Joycelyn Physician, U.S. Surgeon General 1933-
Emeagwali, Dale Microbiology 1954-
Garcia, Fabian agronomist 1871-1948
Griffin, Bessie Blount Eating device for invalids 1913-
Hall, Lloyd Augustus Chemist and inventor (curing meat) 1894-1971
Hill, Rosa Minoka Mohawk physician and good samaritan 1875-1952
Ho, David AIDS research 1952-
Hinton, William Augustus Harvard Med Sch – syphilis test 1883-1959
Jemison, Mae C. 1st AA female in space, physician 1956-
Julian, Percy Lavon Chemist – glaucoma research 1899-1975
Just, Ernest Everett Biology researcher, graduated from Dartmouth 1883-1941
Khorana, Har Gobind Genetic code 1922-
Kountz, Samuel Lee Kidney specialist 1930-1981
Lushington, Augustus N. 1st AA DVM - veterinarian 1869-1939
Mahoney, Mary Elizabeth 1st AA graduate nurse 1845-1926
Maathai, Wangari Green belt 1940-
McClendon, Dorothy Microbiology research - army 1924-
Molina, Mario Ozone and CFC effects in environment – Nobel Prize 1943-
Moore, Ruth Ella 1st AA female PhD in bacteriology 1903-1994
Morgan, Garrett Augustus Inventor, including gas mask 1877-1963
Mossell, Nathan Francis Physician, started hospital, uncle to Paul Robeson 1856-1946
Ochoa, Severo Medicine (RNA/DNA) 1905-1993
Owens, Ida Biochemist – detoxifying enzyme genetics 1929-
Patterson, Frederick D. Founded only black veterinarian school-Tuskegee 1901-1988
Ramon Y Cajal, Santiago physiology 1852-1934
Satcher, David 1st AA director CDC – U.S. Surgeon General 1941-
Staupers, Mabel Nurse – army integration 1890-1989
Steward, Susan McKinney 1st AA grad NY state med. sch. 1848-1918
Subbarow, Yellapragada Biochemistry (folic acid, tetracycline, antimalaria) 1895-1948
Taylor, Susie King 1st AA female army nurse 1848-1912
Turner, Charles Henry HS biology teacher, professor, entomology 1867-1923
Lydia Villa-Komaroff Molecular biology, professor neurology 1947-
Walker, Madame C.J. Inventor, cosmetics 1867-1919
Williams, Daniel Hale Physician, open heart surgery pioneer 1856-1931
Wong-Staal, Flossie AIDS 1947-
Wright, Jane Cooke 1st AA female assoc. dean major med. sch. 1919-
Young, Roger Arliner Zoologist, mentor was Ernest Just 1889-1964


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