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Historical Black Figures In Technology and Computer Science

Black History Month began as only a week-long celebration of African American career and philanthropic achievements. Today, the world celebrates those historical achievements that have paved the way for future African American success. STRM Consulting, LLC, aims to recognize those who were leaders in their disciplines, specifically those who influenced the many data disciplines and computer technology fields.

Here are a few notable figures in African American history that have paved the way for minority individuals and businesses in the tech industry.

Katherine Johnson /
Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was well known for her great contributions to NASA’s Freedom 7, America’s first human-piloted spaceflight in 1961. She worked with engineers in the Flight and Research Division to ensure accurate trajectory and mathematical calculations for John Glenn’s orbital mission to and from Earth.

One of Johnson’s greatest contributions to African American history was completing calculations for Project Apollo, the lunar-orbiting Command and Service Module. President Barack Obama, awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, five years before her death.

Valerie Thomas /
Valerie Thomas

Valerie Thomas is known for her work in physics and aeronautical programs, as she became a data analyst at NASA after graduating from Morgan State University. While at NASA, Thomas developed the image processing systems for the first satellite to transmit images back to Earth from space, Landsat.

In addition to her achievements at NASA, Thomas helped develop computer programming designs that supported research for the ozone layer, Halley’s Comet, and other satellite technology before retiring in 1995.

Clarence A. "Skip" Ellis /
Dr. Clarence A. "Skip" Ellis

Clarence Ellis was well known for becoming the first African American to receive a Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, a feat unheard of in 1969. Overcoming the social hardships of the Civil Rights era, Ellis continued his work as a researcher and developer at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Xeros, IMB, Los Alamos Scientific Labs, Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, and Argonne National Lab.

Over his professional career, Ellis published several books and technical reports and spoke at honorable conventions like the IFIP World Computer Conference.

Without notable African American figures, like Dr. Clarence Ellis, Valerie Johnson, W.E.B. Debois, and Katherine Johnson, the organizations and way-makers of today would be further behind than their predecessors.


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