In honor of Black History Month, we’re spotlighting Black women who have made a difference in the tech industry. These trailblazers have not only overcome historical barriers but have also pioneered groundbreaking innovations, shaping the trajectory of technology over the years.
Did you know?
1944 – During WWII, “women computers” at Philadelphia’s Moore School of Engineering did the hard work of hand-calculating ballistics trajectories for the U.S. Armed Forces. The only Black woman recruited for the top-secret program was Alyce Hall, a talented mathematician and elementary school teacher. After the war, she went to work, helping program the world’s first supercomputer: ENIAC.
1962 – Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician, calculated the trajectories for space capsule reentry for the early Apollo program. Astronaut John Glenn famously asked that she personally recheck all the calculations for the Friendship 7 flight before he would agree to go aboard. Johnson’s legendary career was later celebrated in the film, Hidden Figures.
1966 – Marie Van Brittan Brown, a nurse who lived in a high-crime neighborhood and worked second shift, invented the first home security camera and video system. Her invention, for which she received a U.S. patent in 1969, has been cited in dozens of patent applications for security systems since.
1978 – Valerie Thomas, a NASA data analyst, invented the foundations of 3-D movie technology. Her “illusion transmitter” used concave mirrors to project the illusion of a 3-dimensional object, and paved the way for the advanced TV screens and 3-D films of today.
Today – Marian Croak has more than 200 U.S. patents for tech innovations to her name, and counting. Her work in Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), which translates voices and images into data that can stream on the internet, is what made our era of remote work via Zoom possible. She joined Google in 2014, where she successfully brought broadband internet to developing countries in Africa and Asia, and where she now focuses on racial justice. She is one of the first Black women to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.