9 Black People Who Made an Impact in Physics


Jim Gates is a world-renowned theoretical physicist. He is a pioneer into theories about supersymmetry and string theory. He is a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, but his influence extends to many areas. He is on President Barack Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and on the Maryland Board of Education. He has also appeared on many TV shows and in popular films about physics.


George E. Alcorn is an African-American inventor with a B.A. in physics, a master’s degree in nuclear physics and a Ph.D. in atomic and molecular physics. Alcorn worked for the likes of Philco-Ford, Perkin-Elmer, IBM and NASA, created over 20 different inventions and was granted eight patents. Alcorn invented the imaging x-ray spectrometer – a device that helps scientists better understand what materials are composed of when they cannot be broken down. His breakthrough was regarded as a major innovation by experts in the field. The invention led to Alcorn getting NASA’s Inventor of the Year Award.


Alexander Obiefoka Enukora Animalu is professor emeritus of physics at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A pioneer of solar energy in Nigeria, Animalu is a physicist of international repute, member of the highest advisory body on science and technology to the Nigerian government, Honorary Presidential Advisory Council on Science and Technology (2001–2003), and former director of the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja.

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