In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln, declaring all African-American slaves in the Confederacy as legally free. It took until June 19th, 1865 for all Confederate slaves to be liberated by Union troops and this day was christened Juneteenth. In honor of this momentous day that began the downfall of the evil institution of slavery in the United States, Spark Math by Spark Education honors Black Americans that have excelled and achieved success in the field of mathematics. Here are 4 of the top black Americans in mathematics history for Juneteenth.
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806): Mathematician, Astronomer, and Inventor
In 1753, before the United States gained independence as a country, Benjamin Banneker built America’s first clock. He carved the clock using a pocket watch as a guide. This clock kept time hourly and reportedly worked until he passed away in 1806.
In 1789, Banneker used his self-taught math and astronomy skills to correctly predict a solar eclipse. With borrowed surveying tools, he used his vast knowledge of trigonometry to calculate to the day they would experience a solar eclipse. Benjamin Banneker was a math master in the early years of the USA, almost completely self-taught.
Mark Dean (1957-Present): Computer Science Engineer
We now jump to a contemporary math all-star with Mark Dean. He is a National Inventor’s Hall of Fame inductee and a celebrated computer scientist. Dean played an integral role at tech giant IBM where he would use his advanced math skills to make a name for himself.
Dean is credited for inventing the first gigahertz chip and co-inventing the Industry Standard Architecture System. Mark Dean is a gifted math scholar with skills in binary math, linear algebra, calculus, and other high-level math concepts.
Elbert Frank Cox (1895-1969): Math Professor and Ph.D
We step back in time to the end of American Reconstruction and the dawn of the 20th century. In 1925, Elbert Cox became the first Black person to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics in the US and the entire world. In his time at Cornell University, Cox’s math aptitude earned him several scholarships and grants.
After his time at Cornell, he would teach at West Virginia State College and then Howard University. Cox would become the head of the math department at Howard where he later went on to teach his own son who graduated from university there. Elbert Frank Cox taught high-level math courses and also engineering science and war management during WWII.
Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): Aerospace Mathematician and NASA Legend
Katherine Johnson had the spotlight shined on her in the critically acclaimed movie Hidden Figures as the tenacious math master that took NASA to new heights. Alongside Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson worked as “computers” for NASA and later Aerospace Technologists.
Some of her Influential Math Works
- She calculated the trajectory for the first American man to enter Space
- She double-checked the computer calculations for multiple missions
- She calculated the trajectory for the Apollo 11 moon landing mission
- She created backup safety plans that would help save the Apollo 13 crew
- She worked on the Space Shuttle Program and planned for a mission to Mars
Katherine Johnson helped revolutionize aerospace math and did so during a time of great strife for Black Americans trying to break through the barriers of racism and prejudice.
Spark Math is proud to celebrate these black Americans in mathematics this Juneteenth
These 4 incredible Americans are just a few among the talented Black Math legends in US history. On Juneteenth, we celebrate their lives and achievements in math as well as the trails they have blazed for so many others. If you want to start blazing your own trail, get started with a free trial class at Spark Math and see the heights you can reach.
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