Trailblazing African-American STEM women in the ’40s and ’50s, breaking ground today, and back to the 19th century

Alma Levant Hayden and Hattie Scott Peterson

These two extraordinary women both had degrees from Howard University. On the left is Alma Levant Hayden, whose love of chemistry and Master’s degree saw her blaze a trail in government science – and likely the first African-American FDA scientist in the 1950s, after a time at the NIH. Hayden came to national attention when she unmasked a successful and expensive cancer treatment scam.

On the right is Hattie Peterson, the first African-American woman to earn a degree in civil engineering. She graduated from Howard in 1946, and blazed a trial for women engineers in the US Army Corps of Engineers in California. You can read a little bit more here. That extra information was provided by the Sacramento USACE, but because it hasn’t been published anywhere, it can’t be used on the Wikipedia page.

Two of the mathematicians from Missing Scientists’ Faces have each had a spot for a day on the Wikipedia main page: Louise Nixon Sutton and Thyrsa Frazier Svager, both among the first African-American women to gain PhDs in mathematics or mathematics education. You can see the text that appeared here and here. That brought an extra 5,000 visitors to meet these pioneering women.

And there’s more to check out since the last post.

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Alma Levant Hayden, chemist, and Hattie Scott Peterson, civil engineer (more above). (Note: The image for Peterson is the first one in this project that’s under Wikipedia’s “fair use” criteria: although we are pretty sure there is no copyright attached, we can’t be 100% sure.)

Claudia Baquet is a pioneer in the field of health disparities. Her photo is now in Wikimedia, ready for Wikipedia – but she needs a page. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Baquet was responsible for adding race and ethnicity to NCI cancer statistics, enabling the development of intervention trials to reduce barriers to African-Americans quitting smoking and getting screened for cancer. More on Baquet here.

Saadia Zahidi is an economist, who migrated to the US after growing up in Pakistan. She heads Gender Parity and Human Capital at the World Economic Forum, and author of Fifty Million Rising: How a new generation of working women is revolutionizing the Muslim world.

Featured scientist needing an image

Inspired? You could help by emailing the library at University of District of Columbia or Howard University, to try to get a photo that could be used on Wikipedia! (More on what Wikipedia needs here.)

New scientists’ pages on Wikipedia

Nita Ahuja is a surgeon and scientist at Johns Hopkins University. She migrated to the US as a child with her parents, from India. (Her page needs a photo.)

Erica Walker is another African-American mathematician. She is Professor of Mathematics and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Ebonya Washington is the Henry Kohn Professor of Economics at Yale University . She is one of only 13 black economists on the faculty of America’s highest ranking universities. (And her page needs a photo.)

Tan Lei (1963-2016)) was a Chinese mathematician who studied in France, and worked in Germany, England, and France. She contributed to knowledge about complex numbers, including the Mandelbrot set and Julia set.

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While looking for scientists’ faces, you come across others who are missing from Wikipedia that need to be added.

John Hope (1868-1936) was the first African-American to be president of Morehouse College, the historically black college in Atlanta attended by Martin Luther King Jr. The Science Hall was renamed John Hope Hall in his honor.

John H. Murphy (1840-1922), born into slavery, he was the publisher of one of the oldest operating black newspapers, the Afro-American.

Share some of these pictures and stories, and read about how you can help find missing scientists’ faces. And a big thank you to the USACE and California State Library for helping track down Hattie Peterson and her photo.

Hilda Bastian