Forgotten Genius

Activity Who Am I?

Ages 9 and older.

Many important scientists are unfamiliar to us, even though their achievements are amazing. In this activity, you will learn about several lesser-known scientists of color who have made major contributions to their fields. Working on your own or with a partner, use resources at your library—books, encyclopedias, or the Internet—to match three of the names on the list below to their descriptions. Then see if you can answer the question about each scientist. (Your librarian has the answer sheet.)


  • St. Elmo Brady
  • Shirley Ann Jackson
  • Mario Molina
  • Mae Jemison
  • Percy Julian
  • Ellen Ochoa

Astronaut I was the first woman of color sent into space. After studying chemical engineering in college, I became a doctor. On the space shuttle, I conducted many experiments in space. In 1994, I started a science camp called The Earth We Share, for kids ages 12 to 16. It brings young people together "to come up with solutions to real-world global dilemmas." What was the name the space shuttle I traveled in and what year was it?

Scientist 1: 


Answer to Question: 


City skyline I was born in Mexico City, which is one of the most polluted cities in the world. I became a chemist and have spent a lot of time studying the ways that chemicals affect the environment. My work focuses on the impact that chemicals have on the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful radiation. In 1995, I won a major international prize for my research. What was this prize?

Scientist 2: 


Answer to Question: 


Research lab I was born in Alabama, and I went to a segregated elementary school. Though some people tried to prevent me from becoming a scientist, I followed my dream and eventually earned an advanced degree in chemistry. My research led to a drug that helped millions of people suffering from arthritis. For many years, I did research on one particular plant and discovered ways to use parts of this plant to help make paint, a soy-based coating for paper, and foam for fire extinguishers. What was the plant that I focused on in my research?

Scientist 3: 


Answer to Question: 


Learning More

Black Pioneers of Science and Invention
by Louis Haber. Harcourt, Odyssey Classics, 1992.
Chronicles the lives of 14 African Americans, including Percy Julian, Benjamin Banneker, and George Washington Carver, who made significant contributions to science and industry.

Celebrating Black History and the Accomplishments
of African-American Women Scientists

Profiles an African American astronaut, a meteorologist, and an inventor.

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