AAPI History Spotlight: Saluting STEM Pioneers

Mr. Tornado Ted Fujita | American Experience

May 21, 2020

By Beatrice Alvarez

This week we explore the stories of six Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM.) Their efforts and breakthroughs have helped us understand space, weather, and continue to change how we connect to one another via the internet.

We recommend starting your exploration of these pioneers by listening to the amazing theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku on the American Masters podcast.

Mr. Tornado

Dr. Ted Fujita kept very detailed notes in his professional and private life, as we learned from American Experience this week. His curiosity about, well, everything, led him to draw conclusions no one else had seen before. Among his observations was the fact that not all tornadoes are the same and, after studying them for years, he created a six-point scale to measure their intensity, known as the Fujita Scale.

Jerry Yang

Jerry Yang's story is told in part 3 of the must-watch series Asian Americans. Yang is one of the tech entrepreneurs who transformed Silicon Valley and, you know, the internet as we know it.

Reshma Saujani

Yet another Silicon Valley pioneer is Reshma Saujani and though her background is in the legal field, her work has focused on achieving gender parity in tech. In this interview with Book View Now from PBS BOOKS, Saujani discusses her book "Girls Who Code" and how she hopes more women will be inspired to disrupt the gender imbalance in Silicon Valley.

Satya Nadella

In this long-ranging conversation on The David Rubenstein Show: Peer to Peer Conversations, audiences get to know what drives Satya Nadella. He grew up knowing he wanted the build things and is now CEO of tech giant Microsoft.

Ellison Onizuka

Colonel Ellison Onizuka was a distinguished U.S. Air Force pilot before becoming part of NASA's Astronaut Class of 1978. He became the first Asian American astronaut in space when he completed a mission on Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. His life was cut short in 1986 as part of the team aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. In this episode from Retro Report on PBS, we learn about how that tragedy reframed our understanding of risky actions.

Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu is often referred to as the First Lady of Physics. Her work in experimental physics advanced the work of the Manhattan Project when she was recruited to resolve issues that were occurring at its Hanford site. While women were often kept out of the Manhattan Project's research positions or omitted from the history books, Wu's contributions to science at large can not be overlooked. Passport members can learn more about the history of the development of the nuclear bomb in The Bomb.

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