May 13, 2022

Five Black Engineers You Should Know About – Past And Present

Black people have a significant legacy in the scientific and engineering fields. It’s important to remember and honor that legacy and highlight the brilliant work done by Black people – both past and present.

Though this list is by no means complete, below are five scientists, engineers, and inventors whose work we all should know.

Jerry Lawson – past

The self-taught engineer helped create the Fairchild Channel F, the first home video game system that could play interchangeable games. Previously, video arcade machines played just a single game, but Lawson’s work blazed the trail for Atari 2600, Sega, Nintendo, Xbox, and Playstation which could play a variety of entertainment all at home.

Dr Eric Numkam Fokoua – present

Dr. Eric Numkam Fokoua is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre. Eric studies the propagation of light in optical fibers and develops innovative hollow-core optical fibers for transmitting data and making optical sensors.

In 2019, the Academy awarded Eric with a five-year Engineering for Development Research Fellowship to help advance his research.

When previously asked by the Royal Academy Of Engineering, he said: “I love problem-solving. In my view this is the heart of engineering. I love problem-setting even more! The challenge of finding and formulating problems that have not been considered before and whose solutions could have a far-reaching real-world impact is what drives me.”

Meredith Gourdine – past

Gourdine was born in Newark, New Jersey, on September 26, 1929. In addition to winning a silver medal in the long jump at the Helsinki Olympic games in 1952, Gourdine obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cornell University in 1953 and a PhD in engineering physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1960 on a Guggenheim fellowship.

He joined Plasmadyne Corporation the same year as director of the aerospace laboratory. Two years later he joined Curtis Wright Corporation as chief scientist in charge of a project to develop spaceship engines.

He started his own company, Gourdine Systems, Inc, becoming a full-time inventor in 1964. Gourdine remains one of the most respected scientists in electrodynamics, receiving 27 patents in the field.

He is best known for the invention of electrostatic precipitator systems, particularly Incineraid (patented in 1972), which helps remove smoke from burning buildings, and a method of airport fog precipitation (patented in 1987). Other patents include applications of electrogas dynamics to circuit breakers, acoustic imaging, air monitors, coating systems, and the Focus Flow Heat Sink, which is used to cool computer chips.

 Aprille Ericsson – present

Aerospace engineer Dr. Aprille Ericsson has held numerous positions during her near-30-year career with NASA.

For more than 10 years she was a senior deputy instrument manager for NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite program, where she worked on mapping instruments for future lunar explorations. In other words, Ericsson had one of the coolest jobs in the universe.

Aprille Ericsson

Currently, she is the new business lead for the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Instrument Systems and Technology Division, where she fosters government, academic and industry partnerships.

Jerone Andrews – present

Jerone is a Research Scientist and contributes to the Sony AI Gastronomy and AI Ethics flagship projects. His research interests and expertise span computer vision and deep learning, in particular self-supervised anomaly detection, transfer learning, and adversarial machine learning.

Prior to joining Sony, Jerone received an MSci in Mathematics from King’s College London, which he followed with an EPSRC-funded MRes and Ph.D. in Computer Science at University College London (UCL).

Subsequently, Jerone was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship, a British Science Association Media Fellowship with BBC Future, and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie RISE grant. While at UCL, Jerone also spent time as a Visiting Researcher at the National Institute of Informatics (Tokyo) and Telefónica Research (Barcelona).

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Abbianca Makoni

Abbianca Makoni is a content executive and writer at POCIT! She has years of experience reporting on critical issues affecting diverse communities around the globe.